By Lindsay Steele
The first thing I noticed about Elmer “Bud” Adam and his wife Helen was that they were holding hands. Being a romantic at heart, I thought it was adorable. They’d been married nearly 70 years and together for 73 years, counting the time they spent dating. I was interviewing them for a story, and it was easy to see that they were still deeply in love.
This is the picture most engaged couples have when they think about what they want marriage to be like. They want to grow old together and grow more in love with each passing day.
Time isn’t something anyone has control over. In staying committed “til death do us part,” couples may have a day together, or 75 years. I have no doubt my parents would have been celebrating their 36th anniversary this year had my dad not gotten sick and died. You just never know. Helen acknowledges how fortunate she and Bud are to have been able to stay in good health through the years. She’s thankful that those 70 years have been filled with love.
While the amount of time a couple potentially has together in life is not in their control, the love aspect is. As most long-married couples know, love doesn’t grow by accident. It didn’t for Bud and Helen. Their shared faith helped them to think positively in times of stress. They didn’t dwell on problems and blame each other. They found ways to solve them. They made romance a priority, even if going on dates was not feasible. The Adam children said Bud frequently had his arm around Helen at home.
Hearing Bud and Helen’s story, through their words and those of their children, made me reflect on my own marriage. I have been married to Chris for a little more than five-and-a-half years. We balance each other out with our unique skills and weaknesses. However, we have certainly had our share of struggles and disagreements. Our differences sometimes lead to misunderstandings and heated discussions. But even at our lowest moments, we come back to each other and work through them. Why? Because marriage means something to us and we are willing to work for the betterment of our relationship. We were married in a Catholic church, with Chris’ godfather as the officiant, in the presence of family and friends. They want us to succeed. Most importantly, Chris and I want to succeed. “We’re supposed to be together,” Chris says.
It’s something we’ve clung to; we are in this sacrament for life. In a lot of ways, we are figuring things out as we go along. Having that common goal of commitment means everything. He was raised by a single mom, whereas my parents never fought. Learning how to disagree, compromise and express our feelings in healthy ways are things we have had to work on. We’ve had to learn not to take each other for granted during busy times, and to do small things every day to show that we love each other.
I’m happy to say that, at this point in our marriage, I love Chris even more than when we first got married. I’m at that point because of the work we have put into it. Love grows through positive choices and problem-solving, not complacency. Writing Bud and Helen’s story really reinforced that idea for me.
Will Chris and I make it to 70 years like Bud and Helen? Only God knows. But what I do know is that it is up to us to make the most of the time we do have together.
(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)