My mother was just out of surgery and my sister, Tina and I were hovering about. My brother-in-law left to go pick up dad – we had him stay home during the procedure due to his own health issues. When they arrived, Tina and I stepped back to make room for dad to get near mom; he walked slowly using his cane. Not a man of many words, he smiled…then bent down, kissed her hand and handed her a single rose. All three of us, Tina, Jerry and I were moved to silent tears, but the nurse standing by burst into sobs. A single act of tenderness and love was demonstrated right before eyes by a very simple man, who believed that actions said more than words.
What makes this event stand out to me is that I have seen and heard retired couples bark, snipe, holler, sneer at each other, oftentimes relentlessly. At the supermarket, at the movies, at restaurants, the bickering just went on and on. Embarrassing for them and for us. You can’t help but think, were they always this way? Or did it begin when they retired and had nothing to do all day – they got on each other’s nerves and verbalized every single “wrong” thing they felt the other was doing?
I believe that a married couple needs to stay “wed” to each other throughout the marriage – with or without kids. That the thread between the spouses was separate from any other person, related or not. That you and your spouse had a relationship with one another as one unit in thought, action and deed. Without this connection, when the kids are gone, they are left with a void…two people wandering around the house, together, but alone with their thoughts and memories. No wonder the bickering escalates to downright meanness and cruelty.
Retirement might just be the avenue to re-connect with one another. With time and space available, a couple can find their way back to each other. It has been said that even if you don’t feel it, if you act it, the feeling will develop. Simple acts such as a pat on the hand or serving the other person first before you feed yourself can be a start. Remembering what brought you together, way back when, would be a great springboard to exploring how to return to those feelings of love and desire. Planning evenings out – doesn’t have to be fancy dinners – it could just be a burger and a beer; perhaps a movie or a play, joining a card game group, driving down to the beach or up a mountain to the pretty little inn…are all worth exploring together, as a loving couple with a shared history.
It is also time to forgive and forget…something your spouse did twenty years ago that has stuck in your craw from that day forward needs to be let go. This inner exploration of finding peace will serve all of us well. Retirement should bring us a sense of harmony and goodwill – we have earned it and should be put it to good use. No need to re-hash past grievances, just explore how you can say I’m sorry when necessary with what you say and do today, and then move forward.
A woman once told me that her husband brings her flowers every day. I exclaimed: EVERY DAY??? She smiled and said: “Yes…he goes out to the backyard and cuts the best ones, puts them all together in a single bouquet and brings them to me.” A daily gesture of love, commitment and tenderness!
Zaf and I will work on remembering the day we met and keeping the spark alive as we move forward into retirement. I plan to plant roses 😊
We are on it!
Mom and Dad Photograph from Personal Collection of Helene and Zaf
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