One couple had grown up on adjoining farms. The other had met in
school when she was in the 3rd grade and he was in the 1st. None
ever had any other significant person in their lives; each couple
had been together in marriage for over 50 years. Really, they had
been together for their lifetimes.
In this world of divorce and disunion, it is hard to imagine
such commitment, such simple and lasting love. I don't even have
the means to comprehend it: never to have had any doubt that you
know who the right partner is, to grow up knowing that person will
be with you throughout your entire life. It is a love that is the
bedrock of what love is.
I have been privileged to meet such couples across Vermont over
the years. They have not all been together for half a century nor
grown up certain of the bound between them, but they have all made
a go of marriage over the long haul, decades upon decades. Children
raised, grandchildren loved, and then great-grandchildren added to
We have among us, in this time of such great turbulence, a
source of greater stability and consistency. I refer to our
parents, grandparents and neighbors. They have been through tougher
times, endured greater sorrows, and remained steadfast in spite of
more dire circumstances than we now face. Yet they have not only
survived, they have prevailed. They have remained intact as
Why do we not seek them out and ask their advice? How is it that
we believe we are experiencing something new and different? What is
it about today that makes us think it is more credible than
yesterday? What makes us think things are more complicated than
they ever were before?
When I visit with husbands and wives who have been together
nearly as long, or longer, than I have been alive, I am stuck by
how simple staying together seems to them. Succeeding in marriage
is never a result of a choice of options; there never is or was any
It is just the same for hanging onto their home, taking care of
their kids and generally making their way through life. One did
what must be done and did without whatever was not absolutely
essential to that purpose. If one couldn't afford a TV, one did
without it. It was the same for new clothes, dinners out, new cars
or anything else. What mattered was each other and family. It was
that simple and they managed to make it work.
So, where am I going with this? I am not sure beyond the
suggestion that the greatest resource we have to cope with the
current crises is those individuals and couples who have managed
the longest. By doing so, it is possible they have accomplished the
most. After all, Aging in Place doesn't happen by accident.
Scott Funk is Vermont's leading Aging in Place advocate,
writing and speaking around the state on issues of concern to
retirees and their families.