For Better Or For Worse

The old anniversary odometer just clicked off another whole number, we made it!  Today Peg and I celebrate our twelfth wedding anniversary. I can’t say the ride has been smooth because we have had our differences, but we learned to deal with them, and always made up. My God father once gave me this advice: never go to bed angry at each other , always kiss and tell each other “I  you love.”  God father’s advice works because Peg and I have made that ritual a standard practice. In twelve years I can say that we missed it once. I should say I missed it once because she was already asleep when I got home from a late meeting. Even though she slept, I followed through but she was so fast asleep she didn’t know I did.

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The first nine years I have to admit we enjoyed the “for better” aspect of our marriage vows We partied, we traveled, we went to the theater, we enjoyed the country club dinners with friends, all the things healthy people in love do. In the ninth year there was a dramatic slowdown in the better and an increase in the “for worse.” There were signs of memory deterioration. Peg suddenly needed help operating a washing machine. At first, I thought she was playing me, but she couldn’t remember which knobs to turn and buttons to push. When we traveled she always insisted I wait for her right outside the ladies room, she was afraid of getting lost. When in a restaurant she told me to order for her because she couldn’t see the items on the menu. This was a lady whose practice it was to read the entire menu, even the fine print, so she could decide upon a meal. During the last two years it has been mostly “for worse”  with an occasional better.

Joe & Peggy Wedding Party-November 5, 2005

Peggy’s Family

Before we agreed to marry, we discussed the inevitability of one of us dying or getting sick and how we expected the other to act. We agreed that even if we only had one year together it was worth the try at happiness. Both of us had long marriages before, and we both lost our spouses to a disease. Her husband died of heart related issues in combination with lung cancer at age sixty-nine. My wife beat breast cancer only to die at age sixty-five from issues related to a debilitating heart attack at age sixty-three.

Between the two of us we had ninety-one years of marriage under our belts, how hard could a second marriage be? It should be a snap, after all we have seen almost everything couples experience during our first marriages. How wrong I was. It was hard, but not so hard that we weren’t able to figure things out and smooth the conflicts over.

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Right now, Peg is in some state of deterioration resulting from Alzheimer’s disease. I tell people she is relatively stable but declining very slowly.  This is why we are in the “for worse” period of our vows. Her communication skill is gone. Imagine a typical woman not being able to talk, she must be in hell. Imagine a woman who was a fashionista suddenly not giving a crap about clothes, make-up, or hair. Imagine a woman who was so fastidiously clean that she changed every piece of clothing every day because it was dirty from having worn it once, not wanting to bathe. Imagine a lady who could out walk me on a shopping trip not being able to walk again because she can’t remember how. I could go on and on, but I think you get the drift. Our lives have changed from that of newly weds to that of care-taker and patient. Luckily we had discussed these possibilities early on and put things in writing to be very clear about how we would treat each other.

It has been a good run but it is not over yet. It may last another day, or another ten years but it won’t matter because we still love each other now, and will continue to love each other to the very end which is the “till death do us part” of our vows. I write that like I expect to outlive her, but the fact is I can drop dead before her. In that case her life gets a little bit more complicated, but again, we have left instructions for our children on how to deal with that situation.

Happy anniversary my darling!

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