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How to Stay Married For 46 (70) Years… and Still Counting

Actually, 70 years, but the first 25 years kinda sorta don’t count!

By KenPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 10 min read
Top Story - December 2021
Courtesy: Author

The first time I met my future wife, I had fallen on top of her when we were simultaneously tossed out of a wagon together. I was the lucky one because I landed on top of her, our heads bumped at the wrong angle, and she got a cut forehead, which left a nice little scar for proof. I was 3, and she was 2!

Her name is Sue.

Our dads had been friends since grade school. They were two of the five or six boys that went everywhere together. As they got older, they drifted away some, but still kept in touch from time to time.

One time, in their high school years, they were all involved in a car crash with several of them receiving some rather nasty scars, including my dad. But, that was just some teenage shenanigans — they all survived.

As they grew into their late teens, they each found the girl of their dreams and got married, just as World War II broke out. They entered different branches of the Armed Forces at nearly the same time, and each served their country admirably until the war eventually ended.

Courtesy: Author

When they got out of the service, they were among the first families to start the baby boom generation, which brings me back to that wagon ride gone awry. Some say it was Sue’s oldest brother, Bobby Joe, who overturned the wagon, while others say it was brother, Billy, who did the dastardly deed. Whichever way it happened, I’m sure they had no idea it would turn out like this.

From time to time the two families would get together to play cards or go on picnics together. They attended each other’s kids’ birthday parties, celebrated Christmas, and went to New Year’s Eve parties. When all of them would meet to play poker, there was always plenty of beer to go around, which added to their merriment.

When those games came about, we kids would get tired of playing and would get sleepy-eyed. Soon after that, we’d be fast asleep on the couch, or in front of the new TV, laying on the floor.

Once, when I was nine, Sue (my future wife unbeknownst to me at the time, obviously) fell asleep on one of our beds. She looked so pretty and angelic there, so I took the liberty of kissing her on the forehead while she slept. I had no idea what was in store for me.

Courtesy: Author

Sue and I lost touch with each other for several years. Our fathers would still get together every now and then, but spouses and children didn’t fit well at poker games, so we would be absent. Besides, the poker games usually started when we were supposed to be finishing our homework and getting ready for bed.

As we grew older, into our teens, I would catch up with her with telephone calls. Sue still recalls how I would call her, then spend most of the time talking with her by saying nothing.

Back in the 1960s things weren’t quite as easy as today. There were no cell phones, no face-timing, no instant messaging, and no email. In those days, people paid for party-line phones to hold down on costs. When you wanted to call someone, you first had to make sure no one was talking when you picked up the receiver. If you had the right timing and your call went through, there would still be interruptions at times. Anyone on the party line (on either end) could pick up their receivers and listen in on your calls!

No wonder I didn’t have much to say. Besides, what 15-year-old boy knows what to say to a girl? It wasn’t like I could invite her over for a coke or something. She lived too far away to just walk over to see her sometime. To further complicate matters, I couldn’t yet drive. That led me to conclude that maybe it wasn’t the best time to consider dating her, given all the obstacles facing us.

I don’t think there was any kind of agreement reached by us, but I found myself not calling her as much. We were still friends and we still liked each other. It’s just the mechanics of our situation were bad. Slowly but surely, we fell out of touch.

High school came and went and I had opportunities to date other girls, especially ones at school with me, but nothing of any serious nature. I was too rambunctious and foolhardy to want to be tied down. In my senior year, just before I turned 18, I heard my friends talking about joining the Army or going into the Marines. That was when I started thinking about my future — what did I want to do after I graduated.

The Vietnam war was going on and a draft had been established that I had to sign up for. I was assigned draft number 91. The luck of the draw had not been kind to me and there was a good chance I would be called to serve my country. The only thing still up in the air was “when.”

At the time, I was running around with three of my friends, just doing normal teenage stuff — cutting grass, playing basketball on the outdoor courts at the Boys Club, and talking with the few girls around in our neighborhood that were still available.

After one of these basketball games, we were sitting outside on the curb in front of one of my friends’ homes. We started having this very serious conversation about what we were going to do with our lives. My friend, David, was set on going into the Army. His draft number was 36, so he knew he’d be getting called and he wanted to get his two years of active duty out of the way so it didn’t interfere with his plans for a wife and kids.

My second friend, Perry, was in a similar position. His draft number was 51 and he, too, decided to join the Army to get it over with. He had a bit of a different idea though — he wanted to volunteer so he could become a paratrooper.

Robert, my third buddy, was in a most fortunate position as far as the draft was concerned. He drew number 364. There was a very slim chance that he would be called for duty, so he decided to stay home. Besides, he had just proposed to his steady girlfriend and was eager to look for some type of long-term employment, either with GE, or Ford, or some other big-name company.

That left me, sitting there with a 91 draft number. I could see that it wasn’t a matter of if, but when I would be called to serve, so I opted to grab the bull by the horns and do what Perry did, volunteer and become a paratrooper — and that’s how it played out!

The way I mapped it out, I would serve three years of active duty, then three years of inactive reserve duty. Then I could pursue whatever direction I wanted, plus have a GI Bill to count on for college training.

Playing it out as planned, I was released from active duty on August 15th, 1969, just after I had turned 21. I found a job working as an apprentice printer for our local newspaper. They offered an on-the-job training program that the government would pay me to attend, so I took that course right away.

I worked for the newspaper for a total of 5 years.

I worked the evening shift, from 6 pm to 2 am Tuesdays thru Saturdays. It was after one of these shifts when I went home, climbed the stairs to my bedroom, then collapsed into bed out of pure exhaustion.

When I awoke, I thought I heard voices talking downstairs. So, I went down to investigate and found Sue’s mom, sitting at our kitchen table, talking with my mom. She looked pleased to see me and we talked about how things had been going since I got out of the service.

Then, as I turned to start getting ready for another day of work, she told me I should give Sue a call sometime and gave me the phone number. So, I figured I’d give her a call the first of the following week and mentioned it to her mom, and she said she’d be sure to mention it to Sue.

I didn’t want to seem too eager to call. That might leave the impression I was not dating anyone, which wasn’t true. In fact, I had plans that same day to meet a girl I had just started dating, and take her to lunch.

Courtesy: Author

As it turned out, this girl was recently divorced and had adopted a child and, from all appearances, was a wonderful mother. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in a “Let’s get married” frame of mind at that time, so we decided to just be friends and hang out with each other from time to time.

The next week, when I called Sue at her home, she wasn’t there. Her brother told me she was on a trip to Washington, D.C., and wouldn’t be back until the weekend and to call her back then.

I made sure when I called that she would already be home. I didn’t call until after Mass on Sunday, around 2 pm. When she answered, it was like we had just talked yesterday, so I asked her to meet me the next day for lunch, and she agreed.

From that moment until now, Sue and I have always been in each other’s lives. We’ve shared many an “up and down” over the years, but never, ever could I have met someone more loving and caring, nor as devoted a mother than Sue.

We married in 1975, had our first child, a daughter, in 1978, followed by our son in 1982. Together, we have watched them grow into adulthood and foster their own families, leaving us to coddle and shower our grandchildren with plenty of spoiling.

Our 70 years of knowing each other, along with 46 years of marriage, has brought many challenges along the way. But, we fought through them together. We fought with each other, verbally that is, when we disagreed with something the other said or did. But, we always maintained a well-defined level of respect for the other side’s opinions.

We have both contributed to the growth of our marriage. That’s what marriage is, after all, a growing and melding of ideas to form a teachable philosophy to our children and grandchildren, as well as anyone else whose life we may touch.

Sue and I believe in giving, and paying it forward. What good is a fortune if you can’t take it with you? What good does a fortune do if it can’t be used to help keep someone from struggling with life?

The gladness in our marriage outweighs whatever sadness we have endured by over 100 fold. We have been fortunate to be able to help others during our marriage, and that is the message we taught our children.

We both believe the only way to address deficiencies in any area of life is to make effective changes to induce a different result. We have always chosen our words with the other person’s feelings in mind. We haven’t always agreed, but we have remained civil with one another to arrive at our shared solutions.

Courtesy: Author

Slashing and burning words used in a relationship only tear it apart. You can’t build a lasting relationship with hostile words. Once spoken, words aren’t soon forgotten. If they are spoken too frequently, apologies ring hollow to our loved ones. The better way, we believe, is to not have to apologize in the first place.

Now you can see how I say we have been married for 46 years, going on 70. God put my ideal mate in front of me at a very young age. I believe He also told us to play nice with each other.

No matter what life has thrown at us, we have weathered it together — we have never given up on each other. It takes a lot of work, lots and lots of work! It hasn’t always been easy — nothing in life is ever easy, not if it is to be lasting.

As you read this, I hope this helps you manage the struggles in your life a little easier, or perhaps with more dignity. Life is only hard if you face it alone!

Thanks for reading this!

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