By: Anne Thurston-Brandly
Learning something you have always believed may not necessarily be true can come as a haunting shock. I learned this when visiting my mother in 1982, four years after my father died. To this day I recall her exact words. They contradicted what I had been led to believe. Over three hundred miles separated us at the time but our letters were frequent. My visit with her was to celebrate her 85th birthday.
After blowing out the candles and enjoying cake and ice cream we sat and talked of family and happenings when she suddenly said to me, “Anne, don’t ever believe it when people tell you following the death of your husband time will heal his leaving. It isn’t true. Each passing day I miss your father more and I can’t wait to die to be with him.”
Her words were such a contradiction to the woman I knew her to be I am not at all certain how I replied. She was the picture of a content widow living in a pretty little apartment with her car, books, knitting, TV, loving family, friends and telephone. Yet I knew as I sat with her there was nothing within my power which I could do to alleviate her loneliness for Father. No deed or money would bring her happiness.
I talked to my husband about my discovery and together we decided if I was ever to find myself in the realm of widowhood he hoped I would seek another to be with the rest of my life. I was not to accept the loneliness of widowhood unless it was my desire.
In the ensuing years life unfolded for me in ways I never anticipated and which carried me down paths I couldn’t have foreseen; yet mother’s words remained with me. I couldn’t believe my brother and I had not perceived her loneliness and done something to help her.
Today’s growing numbers of people living far longer than their ancestors is slowly being recognized. A research group recently announced one third of those being born today will live to be one hundred or more. The construction of retirement homes (one is being built in Boyne City) has escalated beyond expectations across the country. They offer an opportunity to live with others and to receive care when it becomes necessary. The cost of residing in one can vary extensively dependent on location, accommodations and services.
I visited a very large retirement complex in Portland, Oregon a year ago. It was like a small city within itself with shops, services, entertainment, health care and exercise opportunities. The most interesting factor however was it was a cooperative which led to far more reasonable monthly charges than those built speculatively and for profit required. The units were purchased by the inhabitants and the monthly ‘rent’ covered services such as laundry etc. The purchase of a condo-like unit ranged from $30,000 upward to $250,000. No equity is awarded upon death.
Grandview, our county facility for the aged is a remarkably beautiful and comfortable home for those who seek companionship and care when they are left alone. This facility is not privately owned and its charges are regulated through Medicare. The daily fee is to be raised to $225 next month.
As the death of my husband of sixty-five years neared I, with the help of my son and daughter sought such a place for me. The more I explored the more the memory of my mother’s words filled my mind. I came to realize that although I am pretty ancient I simply was not ready to give up the life that had been mine for so many years. My decision was to set out to find a replacement and the only road I could find was through online ‘dating’.
Yesterday, thirty two months after my initial contact in cyberspace I married.
Ray and I first met on November 11, 2010 and were engaged just three months later. He decided to celebrate the day of our first date’s anniversary by holding our wedding on the same date in this year. My son-in-law, Reverend Paul Tomlinson of the Presbyterian Church in Cadillac performed a ‘church blessing marriage’ in the sanctuary. His wife, my daughter Nancy, was our witness. As some members of both of our families are having a problem with my breaking society’s expectations of widows being reclusive the ceremony was private. Our joy and love in sharing our remaining years together as man and wife is beyond belief, even to us.
The Church Blessing Marriage has been developed by the Christian Church to allow the elderly to avoid the legal (and often costly) ramifications imposed by a legal marriage. It also allows each of us to retain our lifetime benefits to share with our own family. In the sight of those of us of faith marriage is not a matter of our government but rather of God. The scriptures Paul referred to in his short message were Genisus2:18 and Mathew5:14-16. Ray and I both feel very blessed for what we have done for ourselves and each other. He is 86 and I am 88.