Patty and I met and fell into love when we were eighteen years of age. We were married on July 27, 1951, just two weeks before my nineteenth birthday. At the time, the State of California said that she was emancipated (a female adult) at eighteen, but I had to wait until my twenty first birthday until I became an adult in California. This meant that my mother, or my father, had to sign for me to get a wedding licence! Patty let me know that, legally, she was the adult in our union. Happily, it became a joke between us. The point is that we were both very young and inexperienced when we married, but we were married for sixty five years. That means we were married for our entire adult lives: it means we grew up together-literally. This meant we shared and co-learned from our experiences as we traveled our married life’s pathway to its recent ending. Over time we became as one in our responses to our married life’s experiences. This leads me to try and explain the seeming paradox.
Can two people become so intimately entangled as a result of their shared experiences and yet remain as individuals with separate identities? Is it even possible? It is, and we were living proof of that for sixty five years. Our union was between individuals known as “Mel” and “Patty”. This union created a third entity, a marriage called “Mel & Pat”. So, there is no real paradox at all; there are three separate identities at play here. Two individuals (‘Mel” and “Patty”) and one marriage (“Mel & Pat”). This arrangement has all the parts necessary for the creation of a “love triangle” and the the many complexities that come with it. Complexities that stem from conflicting priorities that may be revealed as the individuals confront various situations in life. If the priorities adopted favor the individuals over the marriage, then the marriage will not endure; if the priorities adopted favor the marriage over the individuals, then the marriage will endure. Simple! Not quite. Adherence to the principle of marriage over individuality requires constant dedication to it over a lifetime.
What happens when one of the individuals ceases to exist? Does the marriage cease to exist? For me, the marriage is altered but not voided. The individual that ceased to exist is replaced by a void, a hole, in the marriage that can never be filled. The acceptance of this reality is the natural outcome of the grieving process the the surviving individual must allow to happen. I am not yet there. For me, now, there is just a giant hole in my heart.