Octo Observations: Covid-19 and Long-Lasting Marriages

Reading guest writers’ personal reflections on Coping with Covid-19 pandemic fills me with gratitude for Charlene and Debra and their wonderful idea. Much comfort and encouragement in these heartfelt stories.Thank you, thank you! Corona is a “virus” that impacts every person everywhere. Countless books will be written about this tragic epic event. As an octogenarian in the winter of life, I treasure each and every day on earth with or without Covid-19. 

No one alive has been unaffected. My husband and I count our blessings to have each other and our devoted family as well as to live in a beautifully managed long-term facility in Richmond, Virginia. Yes, we are certifiably old people. Yes, we are prime targets for those spikey, insidious and terrifying little germs. However, seven weeks ago aggressive constraints were initiated by our Executive Director and administration. Far more stringent than most other facilities. To date there have been two cases of Covid-19 in Health Care. Strict isolation, of course, but thank heavens for modern technology. We can stay connected regularly with our loved ones, unlike the hapless victims of Spanish Flu in 1918. My dad remembered how frightened he was at age 17 to be the “sickest I have ever been in my life.” He was stricken, all alone, and far, far from his family.

Now we have opportunities to communicate via technology. We have time to contemplate our lives. Are we content with our jobs, our marriages and our approach to daily living? Are we rethinking the needs of our loved ones as well as our own? How can I improve myself? Can I be a better person? What can I do to help others? What can I do to make this country less divided or fractured? How can I make a difference?

Except for afternoon walks while Charles, our private duty CNA, helps us for four hours, I stay in our retirement cottage, taking care of my dear husband who fell four times in four days a few weeks ago. I will do anything to keep him with me, to keep him safe and us together. We would not do well to be separated. Thus, while John takes frequent naps, I turn to my computer. To stay in touch with loved ones and write articles, some of which are fledgling seeds yet to sprout. Writing and walking are my salvation.

Late last summer I began a story about LONG LASTING MARRIAGE. Today it is back on track. Like other older people, I feel nostalgic these days. Being married for over six decades makes people acutely aware that each year is a bonus; each year is to be treasured. I believe a successful long-term marriage is a gift to cherish. And, as our first-born daughter told me, longevity allows people to share survival secrets! “So, tell people, Mom, what you and dad have learned!”

September 7, 2019 marked our 62nd wedding anniversary. We are so grateful for our love. With all of our multiple corporate moves, some years dragged and were fraught with challenges. The hardest was three moves in thirty-two months as my husband was transferred from Maine to Ottawa and back to Maine again. My learning curve as a wife and mom was steep. But with the help of therapy, the patience of a loving family, and the willingness of a husband to learn along with me, we survived. With four beautiful children, we were inspired to do better. In today’s marital climate John and I might not have survived such upheaval. Why? Because attitudes have changed. I was raised in the “whither thou goest” era. I followed. 

With the introduction of the feminist movement in the seventies, expectations began to shift. Many women started to twitch; they wanted to use their educations to make money; they wanted to achieve recognition aside from their homemaking and childrearing talents. I saw the world turn, but not for me. My chosen role was wife and mother.

Moves for our family were 100% generated by John’s career. He was recognized, promoted and respected. For him, moving was not hard, unless it impacted our finances (owning three houses at the same time!). Always supportive of me as a mom, he expected me to follow him and make happy homes for him and our children wherever we were. One summer day as I stood at the kitchen sink in our Armonk, New York house, the phone rang. “Honey, how would you like to move to Ottawa, Canada?” “I wouldn’t,” I replied. “Well, I start on Monday, Joy.” GULP! The dye was cast, and we made the arrangements to move!

Raising children in any era is a full-time job. Kudos to women who juggle a career while meeting the needs of growing children. Experts say children are adaptable, and they are. But no one can say they are impervious to upheaval without experiencing deep feelings. Moving during high-school years is traumatic. Now many corporate couples reevaluate the timing of moves, as was the case a few years ago with our younger son and his wife. He worked in Charlotte while his family stayed in Greensboro, NC. Charley commuted home on weekends for over a year so that his older daughter could finish high-school in the same town. We moved our own two daughters during their junior years in high-school. They did it, but not easily. And to this day, I wish they could have had a choice as to what they WANTED to do. Luckily, they are incredible women.

With changing times and customs it is not unusual for husbands and wives to work outside the home. Child care, grandparents or nannies provide the needed assistance in raising little ones. Choosing the right daycare facility is tantamount for working parents who manage long days. They adjust, as do their offspring. 

I often wonder how young parents find quality time for each other. When is their chance to spend time alone, nurturing their own relationship? When are they able to talk in depth, aside from the few minutes before falling into bed exhausted? From experience, I know a relationship cannot flourish without being nurtured. And that takes effort; it takes listening; it takes patience; and it takes sharing concerns and ideas. It demands time together PLUS unselfish love.

Obviously volumes have been written about marriage. Customs evolve. Living together before marriage in 2020 is acceptable by most, yet shocking in 1957. My mother insisted, “you must be friends first. Save sex for marriage. No man wants to marry second-hand merchandise!” And of course, as a nineteen-year-old girl in love, I swallowed my mother’s words whole!

Sadly, today’s statistics prove that divorce is relatively easy and much more common than it was fifty years ago. Children often have more than one mom or dad. Dr. Laura Schlesinger, notable writer and radio psychotherapist, insists children come first. “No divorced parent should remarry until the last child is 18, i.e. a legal adult.” Why? Because children need consistent parenting. Dr. Laura believes that too often second or third marriages don’t survive and damage children, as evidenced by the high rate of divorce. I pray that during these weeks of “corona virus self-quarantine,” of working from home, many couples are revisiting the reasons they chose each other. May they become more bonded than ever. Time will tell.

Old-fashioned as I sound, I believe common values and goals  are crucial to the long-term success of a marriage. Couples do better when attracted to each other for the right reasons: similar backgrounds, similar cultures, similar education, and similar goals are critical. Romantic physical infatuation is a fact of life, but a mere precursor to true love. 

From the moment I laid eyes on John Nevin, I was smitten by his extraordinary good looks, his kindly, thoughtful ways and his keen intelligence. Today, at age 85, he is gray haired, less agile and in my opinion forever handsome. His blue eyes are less bright but they still twinkle… and even more so now as we find ourselves in the twilight of our lives. Thank heavens for 62 ½ years of a meaningful, loving marriage. If there is one thing I need to say to all young couples, it is this:

When you take your marital vows, the “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” part may be most important of all. For love that endures is love that works its way through any given challenge. But one cannot do it alone: it takes team work… a team of two intertwined people committed to a common cause: a lasting and fruitful marriage.

Covid-19 pandemic is huge. Hopefully we never see another like it. Yet, in a weird way it offers everyone and especially couples time to work together as never before. A chance to endure whatever comes at us, whatever hardship, heartache or opportunity evolves. It offers a new chance to love each other with all your heart, soul and being. It  can teach couples never to take each good day, each good year or each good second for granted. 

So, let’s write our own Coping with Covid-19 story. With all the worry, heartache, inconvenience that surrounds us these days, let’s grow closer, wiser and kinder. Trust me when I say that  anyone who hopes to become a contented Octogenarian years down the road…..and still happily and gratefully married…..can embrace this time to fall in love all over again with the person of their dreams….chosen years ago. 

Stay well. Stay Safe. Stay Committed.

Photo | Bigstock

Joy Nevin is the author of Joy of Retirement – Live, Love, and Learn. Click to buy on Amazon.

About Joy Nevin (75 Articles)
Joy Nevin was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. She graduated from Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, attended Connecticut College for Women for two years until she married John Nevin in 1957. Four children later, with twelve corporate moves in 20 years, the family learned flexibility. In 1990, with a nearly empty nest, Joy and John moved to Richmond, Virginia where they put down roots. Now in her eighties, Joy is the author of “Get Moving: A Joyful Search to Meet and Embrace Life Transitions” (2002) and “Joy of Retirement: Live, Love and Learn” (2015). Since 2016 she has written numerous articles for Woman Around Town on downsizing, moving to a retirement facility and her current series, Octo Observations. She is also a proud Grammy of nine, great grandmother of two…..AND forever grateful to Charlene Giannetti for supporting her passion for writing!