Joe has kindly offered me the opportunity to do a “guest blog,” while we are going through the Chilean Fjords. I’m sure he will soon be writing to you about the beauty of this remote part of the world.
In the meantime, I am going to write about the thing that impressed me most soon after we got on the ship. That is the prevalence of older couples. It immediately struck me that we were surrounded by people who looked a lot like us. This is not what I am used to in Washington, D.C. or most other places we go these days. I was shocked! Where did all these people come from? At the risk of sounding totally politically incorrect, the preponderance of people on the ship look to be older “plain vanilla” types (ie. heterosexual, white couples). They walk around just like we do, holding hands and (looking to be) comfortable just being together for 33 days with not much to do.
Quite a few years ago Joe and I were invited to the Washington Cathedral to have our marriage blessed among others who had been married 25+ years or more. At that time (at about age 60) I felt very young, and expected to be surrounded by really old people who had been married for ages and ages. To my shock and surprise, Joe and I (who had at that time been married about 40 years) were called up among the longest marriages in the Cathedral. That really set me to thinking about what the ingredients of a long marriage consist of. I concluded it involves lot of luck (to have found the right person, and persevered through some hard times together), to have been blessed with good health, and to have married young. We were in our early twenties when we married, and during our generation many of those early marriages did not survive. I came away from that service feeling both blessed by the Bishop and blessed by our God-given fortune to have such a (generally) happy and long-lived marriage. Now, over 10 years later, we will soon celebrate 54 years together.
As I got acclimated to the boat and thought about our fellow shipmates, I began to realize that we were among a lot of people who look and act a lot like we do. It is not surprising that folks who want to spend a fair amount of money to be with someone for 33+ days must be: retired with the time to do it (therefore aged 60+); relatively prosperous; and happily partnered. So there was a selection process going that lead to this situation. Still, it also made me forecast that we were to have some boring times ahead when we met and talked to our fellow shipmates over dinner.
I am happy to report that the conversations we have over dinner are anything but boring. While many of the couples we sit with are in the “plain vanilla” category, they come from many countries and walks of life. We have heard fascinating stories of their travels and their past experiences pursuing a variety of occupations. They come from many countries (mostly the U.S., Canada and Europe). And, while you have to look a little harder for them, we have met people of a variety of skin colors, some gay couples, and lots of single people (mainly older women).
Two books I am reading on the trip have given me insights into what makes up a long and happy marriage. In Don Quixote (LONG but good), written at a time when most marriages were arranged, Cervantes says, “Love and natural inclination readily blind those eyes of the mind that are so necessary in making life’s important decisions; and when it comes to choosing a mate, there is especial danger of going astray, and great caution and the grace of Heaven are needed if one is to be guided aright.“ So true! I am also reading First Family: Abigail and John Adams by Joe Ellis. He says he wrote this dual biography to explore the “…startling capacity for a man and a woman—husband and wife—to sustain their love other a lifetime filled with daunting challenges.” It is reassuring to me to learn that, in our secular world where marriages do not receive as much support from society as they did in the past, we are not alone in this quest to sustain a long-term partnership throughout a lifetime. Did I mention that I have proposed a voyage around Africa (taking two months)? Joe is skeptical, but thinking about it.