Take notice: Not every marriage is made in heaven. Some, especially between older folks who have lost first spouses, are based on earthly needs for practical support (physical or financial) or just for good-old companionship in life’s waning years. I’ve recently learned of one such partnership now beginning between two people I knew ages ago, both at that time married to others and raising children.
Today: Both first spouses have passed away; the children also are gone, having moved elsewhere into lives of their own, no longer with the intense day-to-day closeness and companionship others residing in the same home provide.
I remember one of my uncles-by-marriage; his wife passed away many years ago from what was then thought to be tuberculosis, but as we’ve learned more about lungs over many years, we’ve came to suspect it was really cancer. My mother, contentedly partnered to my father at that time, faulted this brother-in-law for remarrying before what she maintained was a traditional Jewish one-year “waiting period”; it was hard for her to accept, from her personal vantage point, the realities of his widower-hood: He had two children, not babies, but not yet ready to be off on their own, plus a business that his late wife had helped him run. So when he was introduced to a widow with a young daughter of her own, plus practical work experience that meshed with his needs, it was, if not all sweetness and light, probably a union made in heaven. My mother had difficulty accepting this at first, seeing it as an affront to her dear sister who was his late wife. But soon enough, she came around…
I’ve moved into that same age-and-stage group myself now, and have just received this news from Don, an old friend and colleague who had also worked years ago on matters of human relations and integration. He’d long-since left our Chicago area town with his wife and children for similar work in Philadelphia, as I had for a new married life here in Dallas. Now, as are my children, his are long grown and on their own; his wife passed away fairly recently, and I have just read this post which he sent to me as well as to his children and important “others”:
“Family: I worked with M for racial justice in the early ‘70s. In recent times we have been in touch remotely, recognizing how much we have in common. So in a few days, I’ll be driving to the town where I used to live and where she still lives — where, largely by herself, she raised three sons, two of whom are now physicians and one a hotel executive. After a few days of revisiting the past, I will bring her back with me to North Carolina, where I now live, and where she was born and raised…”
Now comes the most important part of Don’s message: “I know a fair number of her many friends who, like my family, will also have boggled minds,” he says. “But when time is short, seizing the day and opportunity have the urgency of NOW…”
Who can fault this reasoning? Those who haven’t yet reached that age and stage of lonely neediness will understand when it comes to them. I answered with a brief message beginning “Mazal Tov!” and continuing, “No need for even a thinly-veiled apology and giving reasons — such as getting older and acting like a human being!”
I saw “Knickerbocker Holiday,” my first adult play, when I was a child of 10. Walter Huston’s “September Song” still echoes in my head…