When I was first married I gave up my job working with kids and moved to the Seattle area, where my husband worked. I decided to go back to school and back to caregiving. I found a job caring for an adorable elderly couple, Elmer and Birdie.
They were the couple that romantics dream of becoming. The couple that poets and songwriters picture for inspiration. The couple that grew old together.
The couple that sat on the front porch on their rocking chairs, sipping lemonade and watching their children and grandchildren running and playing in the yard. They were the couple who lived and loved through hard times and good times. The couple who’s love for one another would go on living longer than they would.
(Birdie loved Hydrangea's! Elmer had given her one when they first moved into their home. She had dried Hydrangea blossoms in every room in her house. Whenever I look at mine, I think of Birdie.)
Elmer and Birdie's story
It was 1939. Birdie and her girlfriends were excited to go out on the town. They got dressed up in their best dancing dresses. Birdie wore a blue dress that showed the soft silhouette of her body beautifully. Her dark hair was short and pinned into soft finger waves. They had gone to a Jazz club in downtown Seattle. Birdie was dancing, and talking with her friends.When Elmer saw her, he couldn't take his eyes off of her. (at least, this is what he told me)
Shortly after meeting eachother, they married. Birdie got pregnant and Elmer got drafted. When Elmer got home from the war he wasn't the same man that he had been before. He was angry quite often and had a short fuse with the kids. Birdie loved him dearly and wished there were some way that she could make things better. She was so happy to be a wife and a mother.
Elmer started drinking as a way to deal with the bad memories from the war. He would go out every night after work, and wouldn't come home til very late. And when he did get home he was a mean drunk.
This went on for ten years and through all that time Birdie loved and adored her husband. (I know this was true because of the way she looked at him as she told me this about her marriage. It wasn't with resentment but with love and understanding.)
Finally, Elmer sought help and was able to work through his problems and quit drinking. He was again the man that Birdie fell in love with.
They had a lot of fun together, traveling, gardening, raising horses, and just spending time with eachother. They were married well over 50 yrs when I met them. Elmer would worry about Birdie constantly and Birdie would worry about Elmer. Elmer had a lot of pain and it hurt him to be touched, Birdie would always want to sit by him and hold his hand. It really saddened her that she couldn't hug him without causing him pain.
At this time in my own marriage I was trying to get used to my husbands snore and break him of the idea that it is the woman's job to cook and clean. I mean, I have to work too, so I think housework should be a shared responsibility.
Watching this couple and hearing about their life got me thinking about my own marriage. Birdie showed me that through love, compassion, and understanding, and a lot of patience, we too could become the couple sitting on our front porch sipping lemonade while our children and grandchildren run and play in our yard.
Perhaps "Happily Ever After" doesn't mean being happy in every moment, but that in time, or overall being happy to be with one another.