Most all of the residents I work with have been married for over fifty years or greater. Can you believe they were married to the same person for all those years????? Whoa! In this day and age, you don’t see many relationships of any type last ten years so forget about fifty! I have a few friends that if they added up all the years of all their marriages, well, maybe 25 would be a close number. I have one friend who has been married 7 times….to 7 different men….for a total of 16 years. Okay, that was a bad example.
Marriages fail because we fail one another as spouses. However, the ones that last for 50+ years, well, that is just pretty amazing.
I have a female resident in my facility that has been married to her beloved husband for 65 years. He, himself, is in his early 90’s, lives independently and appears to be in good health. Every single day, he drives down Interstate 95 for 37 miles to come see his wife, who has dementia. She rarely ever speaks, and if she does, it is a mumble that can not be deciphered. She does not show any signs of recognizing her husband. He will sit and tell stories of how his wife was a “runway model”, proudly showing pictures of the woman he loves so deeply. The pictures, yellow with age, portray a very beautiful, young woman filled with poise and elegance. He beams with pride, as his eyes sparkle as he looks at the worn photo one more time before he tucks it back into his wallet. He does not see the woman dementia has left her to be;rather, he sees the woman he fell in love with, married, raised a family with and cherishes. He speaks in the plural when asked if he needs anything during his visits, replying, “no, we are just fine”. Love. Pure love.
I had another married lady, a while back, in the facility, who was also married to a doting husband. She was in her 40’s. Genetic dementia. Upon admitting his wife, her husband, also in his 40’s, sat in my office in despair, with tears flooding his face as he was faced with no longer being able to care for her at home. They had just celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary. Four teenage children,three dogs and cat summed up their life.
During the first few months, he came, bringing the teenagers who he felt “could handle it” and would stay about 20 minutes. His wife had lost the ability to speak, but tracked movement with her eyes. With her type of dementia, it is scientifically unclear as to how much a person can understand, if they understand at all. After a few visits, her husband would still come to the facility, but he began spending more and more time visiting with the female nurses. Can you see where this is heading?
Six months later, his visits had become infrequent, maybe twice a month.Each time he came, he brought a “friend” who just happened to be female. Every visit, same “friend”. The resident tracked his every move with her eyes. She watched him and his “friend,” as they sat in her room, talking about going bowling on Saturday night. The resident’s eyes were locked onto this woman, in a not- so- friendly way.
The husband would stop by my office, telling me how his wife no longer recognized him. He would explain how hard it was on the teenagers to come see their mother “the way she is”. He told me how he just adopted out the dogs because no one could take care of it because everyone was so busy and no one had time for them.
A few months ago, the resident passed away. At her bedside was a wedding picture of her and her husband. Beside that, was a family photo taken at the beach, complete with the dogs. She closed her eyes and drifted off into an eternal sleep.
Two weeks later, I received a “thank you call”from her husband, expressing his apprecaition to the staff for how well cared for his wife was. At the end of the conversation, he said “Im getting married on the 18th. Yep, wedding bells are ringing.The kids and I are excited to be moving forward. We are moving out of state, over to Denver….”
I am certainly not making judgements about this man or about the other gentleman. I am merely pointing out that the current population does not have the same marriage longevity as the gernerations past. The older generation uses the word “we”. My generation uses the word, “me”. Maybe that could be the difference.
Oh, and for the record, I have been married twice, for a total of 20 years.