Well, it’s official. We are now the elder couple with white hair walking down the street holding hands. I remember when I was in my dating years or married and chasing to my next errand I’d see an older couple holding hands and think, “Awhh, isn’t that nice. I’d like to be doing that someday.” And, maybe today people don’t think that anymore. But here we are that couple and how it happened so fast I don’t know.
I look around at people struggling with relationships today and wonder what has changed? The problems still seem the same: He’s too bossy; she nags too much; he doesn’t appreciate me; I want it done my way or the highway!
I hear the arguments: “we discovered we wanted completely different things”, “we don’t love each other anymore” or “I’m not happy and I don’t want to settle”. All are valid – I get it.
I once heard Dr. Phil on his show ask an elderly couple who had been married 60 or 70 years, “What kept them together for so long?” The wife answered (paraphrased), “We just never fell out of love at the same time.”
It hasn’t been easy for us either – same issues with different scenarios and surroundings. But, you know, anything that is worth it usually isn’t easy – if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s a trade-off. You can get it your way and come home to an empty house. Or, stay in a relationship where you’ve settled and be miserable.
What is it worth to you in the long run considering the trade-offs with no regrets? Just seems today, in my view, I’m seeing people give up too easily perhaps forgetting what it was they fell in love with in the first place.
I was 19 years old when Jim and I were married back in the mid ‘60’s. From the day we first met to when we got married was only 6 months.
Before we were married – Sept 1966 © Jim Ruppel
That was unheard of back then and we were given the usual lectures, “It’s not going to last”, “You don’t know anything about that boy” or “You’re too young”.
But it did last and that boy and I have together created more history going on 46 years this December.
I can look back at our “wedding” now and laugh but then it wasn’t so humorous and the story goes this way.
To give a little history, it was during the Viet Nam War and Jim was stationed in the Air Force at a radar site in Cape Charles, VA. I had graduated from high school in Pennsylvania a year earlier and was in Cape Charles for my last summer at my grandparents when we met. We dated for 3 months and then I had to return to PA in the fall to start school at a local hospital. We continued writing every day with an occasional call.
One month into x-ray technician school my surrogate grandfather suddenly dies and I’m devastated. I’ve never had someone I love die before and I’m also faced with the fact I no longer have a home. I drop out of school and after the funeral pull out and leave Pennsylvania forever and go back to Virginia to my grandparents, Jim and my parents who were temporarily visiting.
We continued dating and got serious and Jim proposed and we planned on getting married the beginning of the following year. Over the holidays, Jim had a leave between Christmas and New Years and wanted me to meet his parents in Toledo, OH. Doesn’t sound like a problem right? Well, that’s when things really got rolling.
My mother declared that I wasn’t going anywhere out-of-state unmarried. So we said, in response (no disrespect intended), “Okay we’ll get married”. Virginia is a state at that time where parents are legal guardians until 21.
When Jim called his mother and dad to talk more about us coming home for the holidays and marrying me they asked, “Do you know when?” To which he replied, “Tomorrow!”
Wedding picture © Jim Ruppel
In a couple of days’ time we got our blood test, license, ring, scheduled church and pastor, co-workers were excited about coming. I would wear my white prom gown, Jim in his dress blues and sister scheduled to arrive on the bus from PA early in the morning with her veil. Too short of notice for flowers, photographer and cake – I would bake my own.
All that was left to arrange were my parents and that was not going over too well as you can imagine especially with my mother. Not too much cooperation there.
The night before our wedding around 10:30 pm, Jim comes bouncing through the front door just getting off his shift at base. Says “hi” to everyone as he bubbly comes through the living room to the kitchen where Grandmom and I are baking our wedding cake. He’s happy and excited and I burst into tears as I take my cake out of the oven. It has a big crack down the middle and I lose it.
So we decide to go for a ride down to the beach front around 11:00 pm to cool off and recover. “Do you know what this wedding is going to look like?” “It’s going to be a fiasco with happy co-worker faces, pastor ready to preach and my mother making a scene – no cake, no flowers, no one to walk me down the aisle!”
We rode around a little more ending up in front of the preacher’s house and I finally stop crying so hard. It’s late but we decide to go up and knock on the door. We at least had to give him a heads up as what to expect tomorrow.
His wife answers the door in her robe and hair in rollers and she asks us to come into the study after we explain why we were there. The pastor comes in and we talk and he is comforting and marries us after discussing with us all our options.
We go back home to Grandmom and Grandpop’s and let everyone know we got married, get packed for the hotel before we head up to Toledo the following day to meet Jim’s parents for the first time. So many emotions I had experienced in one night like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other.
As we left for the hotel, Grandmom gave me a kiss and hug and said with a twinkle in her eye, “I knew you would come back married.” The next morning, first thing, I had to call my co-workers and tell them not to come to my wedding that I had gotten married and then wait for my sister at the bus stop before we headed north to Ohio.
Whether you’re young in love, old in love or all the places in between it takes work: giving and taking, compromises, taking a stand, laughing, crying, shouting and forgiving.
Jim and I – Much Older © Pat Ruppel
Being in a relationship pushes buttons and exposes parts of us we’d rather keep hidden. When you have children, the buttons get bigger and louder.
We have to decide how much we want to learn about ourselves and how much we want to love.
Grandpa and boys July 4th © Pat Ruppel
Pat – from the ol’ kitchen table
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