There are so many divorces today that we as a people are in danger of losing faith in marriage itself. Fifty year anniversaries may be, some say, the result of a different generation just accepting the status quo, rather than the result of true love.
Sometimes points are best made by citing the exception rather than the rule. I think that when we find a couple, truly in love, and married a long time, we cannot disregard the possibility that any marriage can be long term and successful.
I know couples that I believe are truly happy, beginning with my sister and her husband, and, I am happy to report, includes Terry and I. Moreover, my sister has been married only once, and my point here is that one marriage can last a lifetime.
In my family background, there are a number of happy marriages and I'd like to share one of them with you. It is truly a love story.
Charles Merchant, with his blue eyes and sandy blond hair, fell for a pretty girl named Mary Napolitano when they were in junior high school. Mary, with her jet black hair and brown eyes, had eyes for this lad only, though she could have picked any boy in the school.
I was a child when they married, and I remember their wedding, a highlight of my youngest years. Mary was the most beautiful lady I had ever seen and she took time on that special day to smile at her new little niece who stood in awe of her in that beautiful wedding dress.
Their wedding reception was overrun with children and was one of the happiest days I had known. Everyone was smiling, laughing, celebrating.
Of course, many weddings start that way. Let me tell you about the years that followed.
Whenever I was with my aunt and uncle, I felt their happiness at just being together, and I liked being with them. Aunt Mary had many talents. Chief among them, for me, was that she played boogie-woogie on the piano. When I think of happy times in my childhood, Mary's boogie-woogie is playing in the background.
My aunt made the best spaghetti I ever tasted, then or since. It was real Italian spaghetti, from the old country. Whenever I visited, she made that spaghetti.
The early years of their marriage had tragedy because Mary had Rh Negative blood. Unlike today, Rh Negative blood in just one parent was a death sentence for the baby who inherited that gene. All of Mary's babies inherited that gene.
One baby lived for a week, others were not so fortunate. I remember crying each time Mary's babies died, and begging God not to let it happen again. I couldn't understand why He let that happen.
Charles, nicknamed Chick, and Mary Merchant finally adopted 3 children. They raised all 3 to be good people who have given them grandchildren. They have not had an easy time there either. One beloved granddaughter died at 16 of a long, slow, terrible disease.
Over the years, this couple had just as much heartache as any other family. But, they handled it better. Love helps that happen.
Over the years, this couple had just as
much heartache as any other family.
But, they handled it better. Love helps that happen.
Chick retired a few years ago after a successful career and Mary resigned as the school secretary so they could spend time together. They have never been busier.
He plays tennis or racquet ball with an old friend each week; she has her bridge club. Together, they take care of the twins when their daughter and son-in-law travel. He helps another son-in-law fix up his home.
Their son and grandson are living in their downstairs since their granddaughter died and the son moved back to New England to be with them. Chick volunteers in a program to help older people balance their checkbooks and keep their records straight.
Each week they play cards, progressive rummy or penny poker, with his two sisters, one brother-in-law, and Mary's sister. They also have a group of friends they've played bridge with for most of their married life. Those friends are all married, to the same spouses, and have been for 40 to 50 years.
The Merchants have a garden, put in a pool, take vacations, are active in their church. In so many ways, they live the lives that you and I live. In so many ways, they live a life almost anyone would gladly live, because they are still in love.
In May, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Merchant celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They planned it for a long wonderful time. On the very night, they would be in a gondola in Venice. Of course.
In so many ways, they live the lives that you and I live.
In so many ways, they live a life almost anyone would gladly
live, because they are still in love.
He is still as handsome as the day she first saw him and he still has that spark of mischief in his eye. She is more beautiful today than she was as a girl. When they are together, they still look at each other with love, they kid each other with clever, but kind, only kind, wit. They hold hands.
There is laughter in their home because there is laughter in their hearts. Those of us who know them take heart, because there, before our eyes, is living proof that love can last a lifetime in a marriage.
And Chicken Mary? One youngster in the family, having always heard their names spoken together, Chick and Mary, because everyone always thought of them that way, asked, "Aunt Mary, why do people call you Chicken Mary?"
That's what happens when 2 people are in love for more
than 50 years. They become one. Chicken Mary.
I can still hear her laugh, and the laughter of the rest of the family as we told and retold the story. That's what happens when 2 people are in love for more than 50 years. They become one. Chicken Mary.
It can happen to me. It can happen to you. Let's make our own love stories.
Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 38 years.
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