STILL FIGHTING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.
SAN DIEGO -- Most of the older couples I know fight like cats and dogs. To live so long together is a blessing and at times a curse.
One gentleman I know whose wife is at him all day and all night for something or another bears up bravely under the constant strain of her nitpicking. He hides as best he can in books and escapes to play bingo. He leaves his hearing aides out on purpose to distance himself. Because of her anxiety, she keeps him a veritable prisoner in their apartment - because she is afraid to go out anywhere. He'll sigh, fiddle with his cane and give me a look that says, "Please save me."
He loves nothing better than to go out to eat at a local fish house and used to like to go to the casino for an afternoon of oblivion. Now that he cannot drive, he doesn't know how to get there except by taxi. All their friends are too old to go.
Once in a while I take him to eat scallops, but he spends most of the time away from his wife feeling guilty for enjoying himself and imagining the emotional price he will pay for his freedom when he returns home. I'd take him for an afternoon of gambling but she won't hear of it. She doesn't like to have him out of her sight and so effectively squashes nearly anything he wants to do. He confided in me once while driving to the doctor's office that he only had a short time left and he still wanted to enjoy his life. We both know that isn't going to happen.
Very unlike this quietly maladjusted couple, I remember another couple who was anything but quiet in their dysfunction. Over the years it seems they had nearly torn each other apart. She had put out his eye with a fork and who knows what he had done to her. They threw objects at each other as a normal coping devise. A big bottle of whiskey was usually found within reaching distance of either of them.
The last time I heard about them they had run away together from the court-appointed guardian and jumped a train for Los Angeles. They found them making a scene in the coffee shop in the downtown station. Not even a traveler's truce while on the open road was possible.
Another couple had an arsenal of weapons stashed around the house that we'd discover one by one. A sword with Civil War provenance. A blowtorch under the bed. They'd tried to barbecue and skewer each other for years.
My grandmother and grandfather were comparatively tame but tangled frequently. She'd fuss at him and he'd take half-hearted swipes at her. "Ah g'wain," he'd grouse when she went a bit too far, dabbing with a damp cloth at him to remove remnants of a meal or a bit of dandruff in his thin but still dark hair. Impatient with her religiosity he'd make funny noises in church that threw my brother and I into stitches. He ate with his hands whenever he could get away with it and did a million likewise uncouth but charming things which made him our hero.
Still, most of these men wouldn't know what to do if their women suddenly disappeared from their lives for more than an afternoon. They'd feel lost if there weren't a hand to touch theirs in the middle of the night, someone to know how they fix their coffee and just what to say when they're feeling upset or sick. Those small, ordinary things that years of love boil down to are the peculiar and precious gifts born of endurance.