Native Writes: Lifelong learning


I’m receiving messages about old friends, classmates and new friends about marital longevity and I send congratulations.

Each reminds me of an assignment I had when the editor, F.G. “Doc” Kirby, told me to interview a couple who had been wed for more than 55 years. I was going through a bitter divorce and he thought I could learn from them.

To him, every day was an opportunity to learn something new through experience. Doc was a great proponent of lifelong learning. I learned that when we were typing copy on wire service fanfold paper and sending it to the back to have someone else type it in and set it for printing.

I had written about a government meeting I had attended and did so in great detail, since the discussion seemed to be important to the public.

Doc, who stood more than six feet tall, put one end under his toe and stretched the copy upwards. It was longer than he was tall.

“Keerist! This is bigger than I am. Cut it down,” he said. “It should not be any taller than you are.”

We did corrections with pencil and cut copy with scissors, then put it back together with rubber cement. I’m not kidding.

I managed to cut it and it was a lesson in writing news copy. Unless there is a fist fight at the mayor’s feet, his facial expressions are not important and neither are the faces and gestures of persons in the room unless they pertain to the meat of the matter.

Doc decided I was perfect to interview the marital veterans about their long and presumably happy union.

They came in dressed to the nines and bearing with them a wedding photo from nuptials in 1920. A sports photographer took their photo and the old photo was sent to the back to be duplicated.

We went through how they met on a high school hayride, how she waited for him to return home on leave from the horrors of World War I and how wonderful their entry into wedded bliss took place “right across the street” from the Courier offices.

They had two children who had moved elsewhere, but they were determined to stay “at home” in the San Luis Valley. She taught school and he raised livestock.

It was interesting to the reader, I suppose. Doc’s desk was about five feet behind mine and the couple was hard of hearing, so we all shouted.

I finally asked them if they had any secrets to a long and happy marriage and the woman said, looking at her husband’s grizzled face, “My sweet husband and I have never fought. We never had a cross word and never have gone to bed angry.”

In short, they were apparently incredibly compatible.

They left happy and Doc meandered over to watch me type.

“Good story, but you forgot to ask that old bat the most important question,” he observed.

What was that?

“You should have asked if they lived together. I don’t think any relationship can exist without at least a few arguments. Men and women don’t communicate alike.”

I still think about that. Doc lived a while after that conversation and we processed obituaries for the man and then the woman.

Life now has more ways to deal with normal stress and the long marriages bear witness to that. People are still getting married and enjoying each other well into their “golden years.” Others marry again and again before falling in love later in life.

I believe in love. Doc taught me that as I watched him and his wife deal with life. I have a feeling there were a few arguments, but there was something that held them together.

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