“We are what we repeatedly do.” – Aristotle
I just spent an entire week in Taunton, Massachusetts with two of my favorite people in the whole world – Robert and Natalie Bell (Jen’s parents).
It has been over three years since we last saw them. At the age of 91, they came to visit us after we moved back to the island. As long as I have been married, they have come every year no matter where we lived. They stayed with us for at least a month. Jen is the youngest of four children, and her mom had her when she was in her early 40’s. To them, Jen will always be their little baby girl. Now, at 94, Natalie is battling cancer for the third time. She first battled breast cancer in her early 50’s then she had a double mastectomy in her early 60’s. Her skin has more holes than the surface of the moon due to melanoma.
They grew up during The Great 1930’s Depression; hence, they live in the same house since they married 72 years ago. It’s a modest house, which was built back in the 1950’s. Not a room has been re-modeled. The kitchen appliances are all original except the fridge. I truly think they are the original conservationists. Not a single plastic bag is being wasted. They recycle every item they use. They do not consume beyond what is needed. On occasion, they will splurge on Chinese Buffet. They eat fish that Robert catches. He worked in the family business after serving in the Navy. They live a very simple life. His passions are fishing, camping and the outdoors. Every year, until four years ago, they escaped the northeast winter by driving their van to the Gulf Coast. During the early years, they traveled in their VW Westafalia. They would live in the van for the entire winter. By March, they would return to the Cape just in time for the fishing season to commence.
We brought our kids on this trip, knowing that the future is rather fragile. Every day their grandparents shared stories of the “good old days.” From what I observed of their relationship, it reminds me of a pair of mourning doves. They are inseparable. He is very protective of her. Every year on her birthday for the last 72 years, he buys her flowers, and he takes her out to Chinese Buffet. On occasion, Natalie would feast on crabs and lobsters (it’s her favorite). As for Robert, he rarely eats meat or sugar. She is the queen and he treats her as such. Jen has never heard them argue in front of her. All disagreements were discussed in the bedrooms.
I am approaching my 30 year anniversary in January, and I can honestly admit to all of you that they are my role models for my own life & marriage. I often ask dad about relationship, life and sex advice. When he celebrated his 84th birthday, I asked if sex was still an option. He smiled and said “Yes, it still happens, but sometimes it’s not with my wife…IT(erection) does not come that often, so you do not want to waste it; so when it comes, you must seize the moment!” This is going to be my best advice ever heard from any of my mentors.
What I have learned from having them in my life is the “art of loving." Love in its entirety is a beautiful experience, but it’s how we learn to love that is where we have usually failed. Believe me, it took me almost my entire lifetime to understand the "how" of loving, and I am still a student. For most of us, we learn this behavior from our parents or lack thereof. They do not teach us how to love in school, church or society. Funny when you think about it- how absurd that is? We learn how to love from our role models and during our childhood. If we each reflected on all of our failed relationships, we would acknowledge the two evident factors that helped lead us to the end of the relationships: our own unhealthy definition of love and our ego-based act of how we love others.
What Robert has demonstrated over the years in his marriage (or on how to love) are these:
- Pick your battles – to win an argument and sleep on the couch after is pointless. Our desire to be right comes with a cost. Does it really matter? Do you want to continue to feed the ego?
- Saying NO to all your drinking buddies and that you have to leave early during ‘boys night out’ to come home to your wife will make your marriage last a little longer than your buddies. Dad said, “And you’ll have more sex!” If you do not honor your wife first, your marriage is more likely to fail.
- Understand your anger – this act is the most damaging one of all. “Go fish and hold your tongue! Come back when you can see it from her perspective. You cannot ask back what you have already said.”
- Hold her hands every chance you get.
- Snuggle, snuggle and snuggle some more.
I can easily write a book on this subject, but for now I want to leave you with this one thought: Love in its own form has no ego. Ego and Love do not reside in the same house. For love to be in its most powerful state, there must be the absence of the ego. As the ego wants to possess, conquer and separate, love has the opposite desire.
From the bottom of my heart F*CK CANCER! I have no idea what lies ahead for Natalie or Robert, but I know that we will make every minute count. We will let them know that their love is not forgotten, but that it continues to radiate in my life, and in turn, I am using it to share with all of YOU!
Me ke aloha pumehana