So Long As We Both Shall Live

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    As the anniversary of our wedding day approaches, so always does a time of reflection on what my husband and I have accomplished in our marriage, and what we hope to accomplish in the years to come. We talk of our children and grandchildren, our family life, our triumphs and tragedies, and of course the love that has sustained us throughout our thirty-three years together.

    This year, as some readers know, everything has changed. We now count our remaining time in terms of a year or so, not decades, and our hopes for the future in terms of lengthening life, not a long journey into old age and beyond. We have learned through anguish how much we truly love and rely on one another, and we cherish every single moment we have together.....even if it involves some rather uncomfortable (not to mention awkward) situations and procedures.

    Here are a few things the old folks don't tell you before you march down that aisle:

    They don't tell you that you'll still be crazy in love after several decades......if you're lucky, that is. When you're young, you think that nothing can be as intense as that first flush of infatuation, which turns into love with time and learning to know who your spouse really is. And when you're in the middle of raising children, with all their messes and school projects and teenage crushes, you sometimes look at your spouse and think "I never signed on for this!"

    It's when you've reached that lovely point between the active child-rearing years and senior citizenship that a solid relationship becomes golden. The grandchildren are coming thick and fast, and it's rather amusing to watch your children struggle with some of the minor difficulties they put you through.

    But when everyone goes home, it's just you and your dearly beloved, and this is the time when you get to rediscover each other as partners, not only Mom and Dad. And this is where Bill and I both feel we're being cheated......we were just rediscovering each other as mature adults, with new and improved visions of our future, and now cancer has wrapped its tentacles around our union almost as much as it has his insides.

    The old folks also don't tell you what "until death do us part" means. Then again, I don't suppose anybody really knows what it means until you're there. You go along living your lives, year after year, never realizing that a day may arrive when the Lord calls your mate over to the bench and warns him that it's late in the fourth quarter and he needs to start hitting his receivers with those long passes........or worse, taps him on the shoulder and says "That's it, kid, you're outta the game." (Please forgive the football metaphors--it's the only way I can express this part without dissolving into tears. Again.)

    That day has not yet come, though we can see it from here. So the only thing to do today is to keep living and loving as if there's no end.....for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.

    So long as we both shall live.
    Last edit by Joe V on Sep 24, '13
    eldersense, RNinIN, StNeotser, and 17 others like this.

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  2. About VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

    VivaLasViejas has '17' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'LTC, assisted living, geriatrics, psych'. From 'The Great Northwest'; 56 Years Old; Joined Sep '02; Posts: 25,315; Likes: 37,006.

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    12 Comments so far...

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    Beautiful article, Viva. Thank you for sharing your heart. This kind of love is a rarity nowadays. I am glad that you are able to experience this gift of love with your best friend.
    Ted, VickyRN, herring_RN, and 1 other like this.
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    very nice touching piece
    herring_RN and VivaLasViejas like this.
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    I'm counting down days until my own wedding. What you wrote here confirms my suspicions about growing older, growing together, and losing each other. Thank you, Viva, for your candor and your courage. All the best to you and him; may the good Lord grant us what he's given you all these years, and grant you more than what you think you're left with.
    sharpeimom, herring_RN, DCrux, SN, and 3 others like this.
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    Such a sweet and sad story at the same time. This really tugged at my heart. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish you and your love the best from the bottom of my heart
    herring_RN and VivaLasViejas like this.
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    My sweet love is beginning to fail cognitively, approaching his ninth decade, not too serious yet, but I can see the writing on the wall. Every day I look at him and see the younger man I married all those years ago, and I fall in love all over again. He trusts me to do that, and so that makes it easier for me to see past the repetition, the forgetting, the little disabilities that creep into our lives every day now. I promised. I will miss him so desperately, but I will not do what we have seen done to too many wonderful people in hospitals.

    Such a lovely man; I'm not an easy woman in many ways and we wake up laughing every day, each feeling we got the better part of the deal. Ah, Viva, we are blessed. How many people never have any of this at all?
    sharpeimom, Ted, VivaLasViejas, and 1 other like this.
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    (((((GrnTea))))) doggone it, what have you done? Now my throat has a lump in it and there's something in my eyes......
    RNinIN, sharpeimom, Ted, and 1 other like this.
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    Serves you right; it's not like you don't do the same to me. {{{{Viva}}}}
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    Darn it all! You both do it to me! But that's OK because you both make me and sometimes too. When you're younger, and have been married for a shorter period of time, you see things differently than you do just a few decades later. You've worked out most of the problems that arise when two lives merge, you realize finally that there will always be areas where you'll never ever agree, and that's fine. Just realizing that you don't have to be right one hundred per cent of the time is liberating. Other things begin to take front and center stage as you age.

    In our twenties, thirties, until our late forties, we were disgustingly, revoltingly, healthy. Then s-l-o-w-l-y changes tippy-toed closer and closer almost imperceptibly, then all of a sudden ... WHAM! Blindsided! Hello, middle age an perimenopause. Hello, occasional bouts of impotence. Who in the heck let you in? We traveled quite a bit, both in and out of the country. We both volunteered quite a bit with various agencies. We were mostly who we had been before -- just grayer around the edges and a little bit slower.

    Everything changed ten years ago in one swift unexpected horrible moment. I had a massive stroke when I was home alone. Absolutely totally completely alone. I kept telling myself not to panic. I could not for the life of me think of Herb's office extension,
    the university's switchboard number, that other number that you called for a life-threatening emergency. Blank. Totally. Blank.

    I know! I'll just call the ____s. They're right next door. Number? Beats me... I know! I'll drive myself to the hospital. Yeah, that's a good idea. It's right around the corner. Wait! Something's wrong... Can't paaarrrkkk the Jeep. Somehow I have to get myself into the ER. Gotta get up that ambulance incline. What idiot put that there? OMG! My chest hurts! I can't breathe! Here comes Jim! (our neighbor who is a cardiologist)

    Into ER...eventually rehab...home again...FINALLY! We had to compromise some of the authenticity of our Victorian house by adding a stair chair, hand rails, my special handicapped accessible shower, comfort height johns, my electric recliner, my electric cart plus the indoor and outdoor BIG outlets to plug it in. Did I mention that the outlets are HUGE? Herb had no free time whatsoever for the first three years (or so) after my stroke. He was absolutely wonderful! I was often weepy, argumentative over essentially nothing, I was learning almost everything I had already learned before all over again. Imagine going out to dinner with good friends, sneezing, and having to be gently coached through blowing your nose.

    Herb has been a loving, gentle, sweet caretaker for ten years. I was lefthanded. absolutely totally and completely a southpaw. It has been a very looooooooooooooooong road coming back even this far. But it has been a struggle to keep the whimsy, the silliness, the passion our relationship always had alive and still blooming. There have been cracks in the foundation of our relationship. A couple were deep, and have required counseling, but have worked out somehow.

    Herb has had to deal with foot and ankle surgery that didn't heal as it should have, but together we are managing to get through it.

    I think the biggest thing you learn when you're in a loving committed forever relationship is that you can handle almost anything, if you're a team. I don't know where things will go from here. What I do know is that as long as we're able to work as a team, not only will we be OK, we'll still be Ginger and Fred, Laurel and Hardy, Lucy and Ricky, Norton and Kramden, Ralph and Alice, plus Jamie and Paul too.

    I see signs in Herb sometimes that could be early signs of dementia and then I remind myself that they're only manifestations of his anxiety condition he's had since grad school when life gets rough. If one of us develops dementia (and since I've had a stroke it would probably be me) we'll get through it somehow. Because we have to and we're one.
    RNinIN, VivaLasViejas, and GrnTea like this.
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    sharpeimom likes this.

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