Linda Stamper Boyne: Here’s a real love story for you
July 4, 2010
This is a love story. It’s not a Harlequin Romance or a Nicholas Sparks tear-your-heart-out, cry-until-your-shirt-is-wet novel. Not a sappy sweet romantic comedy or a fraught-with-drama Lifetime movie.
It is a true, ordinary, everyday love story of two people who got married 50 years ago.
In this era when 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, this is a story about how a marriage can survive, how it can thrive, and, dare I say, how it should be. It’s a story about two people who after 50 years together not only still love each other, they still really like each other.
Tom and Joan met on a blind date. Joan was set up with a University of Oregon basketball player who she was told was 6’2″ and blond. When she opened the door, there stood Tom, 5’8″ with brown hair.
Clearly there had been a last-minute change in the roster. But the substitution worked. A year and a half later, they were married in June in a small church wedding, complete with white dress, smart suits, flowers, dainty white gloves and, in retrospect, an unfortunate hat.
They had a very typical life. They had two kids, a dog, a sailboat, a house. They traveled, they adventured, they raised their children, they shared a life together.
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So, what are the secrets to their success? To still enjoying each other’s company after 50 years together? To making a marriage endure for half a century?
Turns out it’s a very simple concept. They’ve always treated each other with kindness and respect.
“Neither one of us likes to argue,” Joan told me. “I think it’s because we’re both second-borns. Our older siblings were domineering, so we just want to get along with each other. We don’t care about things so much that we have to fight about them. When one of us feels strongly about something, we recognize that and the other just goes along.”
Tom nodded in agreement. He is a man of few words, but Joan speaks eloquently for them both.
“I think our trip to Europe really made a difference in our marriage,” Joan suggested to Tom. He nodded.
Tom had been stationed in Germany with the Army before they met, and one morning over the Sunday Oregonian travel section, the idea for the trip was hatched. Two and half years after their wedding, they both quit their jobs and spent three months traveling Europe.
“We had only each other to depend on for the whole trip and we did so many things and saw so much that we’ve spent years remembering,” Joan said.
“And we did it on a budget, $5 a day for each of us,” Tom added.
“People thought we were crazy,” Joan said with a smile.
When they returned from Europe, they moved from Portland to Coos Bay so Tom could work in his family’s tire business with his father and brother.
“I thought I was moving to the ends of the earth,” Joan said. “I didn’t know anybody.”
It was a devastating event a few years later that also stuck out in their minds as a milepost in their lives. Tom and his brother, Chuck, both amateur pilots, were flying along the Oregon coastline side by side when Chuck’s plane went down. Friends and family searched for weeks without finding him or any part of his plane.
“It was a awful,” Joan remembered. Tom sat silently.
Leap forward to their 25th anniversary. Their gifts to each other were silver road bikes and they began years of riding together. They trained for their annual September bicycle tours (of the lovely-inn-to-lovely-inn-with-someone-hauling-their-luggage variety), eventually riding all over the United States and Europe.
“It’s something we can do together that we both enjoy,” Joan pointed out. “And it’s made for some great stories.” She proceeded to recall all her biking mishaps, including the time she sliced her leg open on the chain ring on a country road in France and used her college French skills to tell the doctor that she “cut her leg off with a bicycle.”
Theirs is a fairly ordinary life that is really something quite extraordinary.
“It seems like we’ve been together forever, but I can’t believe it’s been 50 years,” Joan said, smiling at Tom. “I couldn’t ever imagine being married to anyone else.”
Tom smiled and nodded.
Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.
Linda Stamper Boyne of Edwards can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org