We sat in lawn chairs around an open fire, glad for the warmth against the crisp evening and the physical distancing we’ve experienced in the past several months. Our pastor and his wife had invited the elders and their wives for a backyard gathering and dessert. All but one of the five elders attended; his children’s sports activities had restarted.
Around the campfire, we reminisced about family and marriage. One couple had recently celebrated a multi-decade wedding anniversary. Pastor and his wife have two grandchildren now. Another couple is childless, and another has two children, one in college and the other on the cusp.
I looked around the circle. Keith and I were by far the oldest but likely the most recently married.
“Congratulations on making it to the middle of life while married,” writes Dorothy Littell Greco in her recently published book, Marriage in the Middle: Embracing Midlife Surprises, Challenges, and Joys. “Some of us are newlyweds, some are newly remarried, and others are celebrating thirty or even forty years together.” We’re aging; we’re caring for or losing our parents; we’re adjusting and adapting to whatever storms come our way.
Changes. Disappointments. Past traumas and mid-life losses. “Everyone who follows Jesus is eventually called into the desert,” states Greco. And yet we yearn for connection.
Greco: “According to a 2014 study done by the Pew Research Center, 67 percent of adults between the ages of fifty-five and sixty-four who have been widowed or divorced will remarry.” Those who remarry, “often feel profoundly grateful for a second chance. That gratitude enables them to extend an abundance of grace and mercy to each other.”
I glanced lovingly at Keith across the campfire while listening to the various conversations. The topic shifted to marriage longevity, about which I had nothing to say. But when one couple mentioned the adjustments they’d had to make early on, I waited then added my two cents.
“Keith and I met in our fifties, the middle-to-end of the Second Act of life, so we had lots to learn about one another—and we had three aging parents to tend and three adult children. We’d also spent significant amounts of time as single parents and living by ourselves. Two strong-willed people. It got hot sometimes.”
“But your marriage worked,” one of the wives said. Her husband sitting next to Keith nodded.
“Yes, it did, and it does,” I said. “We won’t make it to our 50th—we’d both be well over 100—but we’re aiming for 25.”
A marriage goal. God willing. And with the support of our church community.
Note: Thanks to my fellow Perennial Gen contributor Dorothy Littell Greco for sending me a copy of Marriage in the Middle: Embracing Midlife Surprises, Challenges, and Joys. I highly recommend her book as a resource for all couples: young, those in the middle (40-65), or older—like Keith and me. We’re still learning and growing!