Life in the Golden Years: Portrait of a marriage

Linda Alessi • Updated Apr 22, 2017 at 8:00 AM

July 4 has always been a time of celebration, picnics and sharing with family and friends. Not so, July 4, 1974 when there were none of this. It perhaps was the darkest day in my life. It was a day that shall remain vivid in my memory. I can remember the feeling of disbelief as I sat and looked at the man who was my husband, my Joe.

The room prepared for him was filled with flowers, almost sickening with the sweetness of the scent. The glow of candles fell upon the face of my children who sat next to me. Friends and relatives streamed in expressing their condolences. My children huddled close to me as if in doing so we could remain united and not feel fragmented by the loss. I tried to overcome the tightness in my throat in order to utter some words of comfort to them. I needed to be brave for them and for myself, for life had changed forever for all of us.

As I look back and reflect. I cannot help but remember the breadth and scope of our marriage. Others before me, and I am sure others after me, will certainly contemplate the relationship of the bond, which even death cannot break.  We promised to spend our lifetime together, not knowing what was in store for us.  Did we realize the times we would share joy and ecstasy?  Did we realize the circumstances of every marriage, where it is possible to feel despair and disillusion?  Not then, but in the years that followed we would know and be strengthened.

Joe and I spent many hours when we were courting to learn about each other.  We talked and we listened to each other.  We agreed on the values of family, faith and our love for children. We were honest with each other and knew each other’s faults. Courtship is one phase of a relationship; marriage is certainly the revelation. It is in the daily living we adapt, compromise and progress as individuals, and as a couple and ultimately emerge with a stronger bond.

We were aware of our shortcomings and limitations. We were like many other couples dealing with life and there were times we would argue. We agreed that it had to work, since I could not go home to “momma” since she was long gone. He certainly did not want to go home to his mother, since that would be the ultimate punishment. We would stop and laugh and talk it out and ultimately kiss and make up.

The sweet things Joe did for me remain special in my reverie. Many times he would send me flowers on the birthday of any of our daughters. He would go without lunch to bring home to me a trinket, maybe earrings or something sweet that I liked. He also managed on the meager allowance to bring home something for the girls.  He always remarked knowing I frowned upon his spending his lunch money frivolously on us, “It fell off the truck,” and then smiled.

We promised we would always be first with each other, even before our children.  A wise person told me once, “The greatest gift a father can give to his children is to love their mother”.

Joe and I would never share the joy of seeing his girls finish high school, college, nursing school, marriage and the blessing and enjoyment of playing with grandchildren. I regret the opportunity to grow old together.  Today, some 60 years later, I can still recall the cherished memories. His was in our lives too briefly, but all who knew him, loved him and was touched by his kindness and caring.

Linda Alessi, of Lebanon, is a regular contributing columnist. She writes about life in the golden years.

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