Two of our presents to each other were new walking sticks from Whistle Creek -- a hickory stick for her, a sassafras stick for me. Although we both have assorted infirmities that slow us down, and sometimes even hobble us, maintaining mobility is important to both of us.
So what are the secrets of a long and enduring marriage? We probably don't think about that often enough amid the daily routine. Today I did make the effort, and after consulting with my better half, I offer these as starting points:
* Talk it out. Don't become sullen and withdrawn. Make your feelings known to each other. Have open, honest discussions. Meet each other halfway when possible when there are honest disagreements.
* Support each other -- physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Everyone needs a hug or a shoulder to cry on once in a while. The support should be available at home.
* Share your interests. One marriage partner may be a sports fanatic, the other a history and needlework buff. Make an effort to appreciate your spouse's passions.
* Be strong together in tough times.
* Be mutually grateful in good times.
By far the toughest was in 1970 when we lost our first-born, 15-month-old beautiful Katrina, to an acute form of leukemia about which the medical world could do little back then. Only a few weeks passed from her diagnosis to her death. We were devastated.
Many blessings then came our way -- our daughter Kristina and son Bobby, both of whom have achieved great things in their chosen fields of technology and sports management, respectively; and our multi-talented grandchildren Zoey, Hannah, and Grayson. As a writer, I have been blessed to have employment through my newspaper and culminating think tank career. And now I am in the process of becoming a blogger, and we will see where that leads.
In our senior years, we each have had to overcome big health problems, for which we needed each other's support. In the mid-1990s, Allyne suffered a major stroke when she was speaking at a needlework convention in Baltimore. A great neurosurgeon at MCV Hospital in Richmond, Dr. Harold Young, discovered that a brain aneurysm was the underlying cause, and in a delicate operation just before Christmas, he capped it. While Allyne has had a few limitations, her overall recovery has been good, and she still has the best memory in the family.
In 2005, a cardiologist informed me that my congenital leak in a aortic valve had led to a grossly enlarged heart, and both the valve and aortic root would have to be replaced via open-heart surgery. I had difficulty believing such an operation was feasible, but through God's grace and the expertise of Inova Fairfax's chief surgeon, Dr. Dr. Alan Speir, it was completely successful. Through the Mended Hearts organization, I now volunteer in hospitals to try to offer support and comfort to others facing their own heart challenges. More recently, I had the knee replacement surgery, about which I have been blogging a good deal this year.
In summary, we have been richly blessed, and we have fulfilled the "in sickness and in health" part of the marriage vow. In our senior years, certain parts begin to break down and need fixing. However, God willing, we can restore our bodies, renew our spirits, and continue to move forward. That is what we strive to do.
© Robert G. Holland 2013