Category Archives: Marriage

Mazel Tov! Six Couples Celebrate Fifty Years of Marriage!

Four of the happy couples: Goldbergs, Grossman’s, Plass, and Secans

What does The Jewish World have in common with the following six couples? All are celebrating their Fiftieth Anniversary!

Susie and Ed Goldberg met each other at a dance at The Laurels, a resort in the Catskills. Susie, who had just turned seventeen, came back to the room that she was sharing with a girlfriend and found several young men sprawled out asleep in the beds and couch of her hotel room. She called security to have them all thrown out. The story of the “Good Girl with Chutzpah” quickly spread through the guest grapevine. Ed was impressed “if I ever go steady again, I want my girlfriend to be just like you,” he said,and then asked for her number.

After casually dating for eighteen months, the two started “going steady” once Ed was drafted into the army. When he got his orders to go to Vietnam, Ed proposed. Despite parental pressure to wait until he returned, Susie and Ed chose to have a small wedding at Temple Israel in New Rochelle, New York, a month before Ed shipped out. Fifty years later, Sue and Ed agree that many factors that constitute a great marriage:  love, communication, empathy, patience, compromise, quality time with family, with friends, and especially with each other.

“Bubbemeises”—tales from a Jewish grandmother— brought Hedy and Harvey Flechner together. They were just sixteen and seventeen when they started dating as freshmen at CUNY City University of New York. The first time she met him, Hedy’s grandmother said he was an incarnation of  her own late husband, Frank. “I’ve dreamed about this day,” she told Hedy. “He’s the man you’re going to marry. Just finish your college degree first.”

On their one month anniversary, Harvey gave Hedy a red rose, a tradition he continues every month to this day. “When he was too poor to buy a rose, he’d steal one from a neighbor’s garden,” said Hedy. Six hundred and fifty roses later, they attribute their long marriage to carefully picking their battles and following Hedy’s beloved grandmother’s advice. “Never go to bed angry,” she told the young couple. “It will take away the fun of being in bed together!” Smart woman, that bubbe!

A grandmother also had a hand in the Plass’s marriage. While spending her summer on Far Rockaway on Long Island, Mickey was introduced by her girlfriend to “the cute boy who works at the penny arcade.”  After their first date, Grandma Spitz told the soon-to-be college freshman  to finish her teaching degree before marrying Richard. “I told her I barely knew him,” Mickey recalled, “but she insisted he was The One.” They were married—the summer after Mickey graduated college The Plass’ advice: Don’t marry anyone with expectations to  change them. “Why would you want to change someone you really love?” Mickey asked rhetorically.

Chris and Bernie Grossman met at a dance at Grinnell College at the beginning of her freshman year. Bernie, a junior,  was about to ask another girl to dance when Chris “got in the way.”  They dated while at college. As they both were from the Chicago area, they continued their relationship during school breaks and even after Bernie graduated. They got engaged during the summer after her junior year. Chris took Jewish conversion classes through her senior year, and  they were married the following summer after her graduation.  Chris and Bernie follow the advice that Chris’ parents’ offered at their fiftieth anniversary: “The secret of a long marriage is to always keep in mind that the little things that annoy you about your spouse are not that important in the grand scheme of things.”

The Secans met on a blind date. Phyllis’s sister-in-law and Joel’s sister, who were friends, gave Joel Phyllis’ number. Five months later, he finally made the call and invited Phyllis to lunch at Nathan’s in Oceanside, Long Island. They had such a good time that lunch was followed by a movie,dinner, and a commitment for a date on Monday night. By Tuesday morning, Phyllis knew that this was “the love of her life.” Ever since that first night, Phyllis and Joel have built on their immediate mutual attraction by anticipating each other’s needs staying “up” when the other was “down,” and, most importantly, finding ways to keep the romance going. “Having a date night is a must,” Phyllis said.

Betty and Steve Schoenberg were fixed up by their fathers, who knew each other through their jobs with the United States Postal Service. “Eighteen year old” Steve (he was really twenty-one) asked sixteen-year-old Betty to join him on a boat ride on the Hudson River. At first regarded as passing summer romance, Betty and Steve continued to date that fall. “It was hard to say we didn’t like each other when our own parents had set us up,” recalled Betty. They got married after Betty’s sophomore year at NYU. “A good marriage takes a great deal of patience, said Betty,” and a good sense of humor—a VERY good sense of humor.

Six couples. Six decades of marriage times five. Eleven children and twenty-one grandchildren later, all have no regrets. Phyllis Secan summed up all the couple’s life-long romances in her outlook on the future: “Our marriage just keeps getting better and better.” Congratulations to happy couples and The Jewish World on their Fiftieth Anniversary. May you all go from strength to strength.

Love Sealed in (Kidney) Stone

 

Larry and I were married on September 8, 1974, at Agudat Achim, with our reception immediately following at the synagogue. Our memories of the wedding are a blur, most contained in the beautiful wedding album that sits on our bookshelf. However, our honeymoon is one of the most memorable…and unusual…on record.

Our first night as man and wife, we stayed in a hotel in Glens Falls. The next morning, we headed up to Quebec City for what we planned to be a romantic week in one of the oldest cities in North America.

Larry had made the arrangements to stay in a brand new hotel that had opened just weeks before. Our room was large and lovely, with a huge king-sized bed and a lovely view of the city. Once we finished checking it out, we went out to dinner a restaurant in the Old City, a lovely old place with stone walls and a fireplace. We both enjoyed French onion soup and steak and returned to our hotel.

At two o’clock in the morning, Larry woke up in agony with severe pains and cramps in his lower back. He thought he had food poisoning, maybe the French onion soup? He tried walking around the room, but in the end he just curled up in a ball on our king sized bed and moaned. After an hour of no relief, we realized we needed medical help.

The hotel was so new that the phone in our room didn’t work. So I threw on some clothes and went down to the front desk to ask for a doctor. He showed up at four o’clock and quickly diagnosed Larry’s pain as a kidney stone. The doctor gave Larry a shot of morphine. He gave me the name and address of the closest hospital with instructions to take him there first thing the next morning. Larry fell into a drugged sleep, and I watched him from the couch. Kidney stones? I knew nothing about kidney stones. I figured that he would be on dialysis the rest of his life. I stayed up the rest of the night trying to envision life taking care of an invalid.

Early the next morning, I packed up our bags, checked out of our beautiful hotel, and drove Larry to the local hospital’s emergency room. His X-ray confirmed that he, indeed, had a kidney stone, a hard, crystalline mineral material formed within the kidney or urinary tract. While kidney stones are painful—described by sufferers even worse than the pain of childbirth or broken bones— we were assured that they are not life threatening. No, he would not be on dialysis for the rest of his life. However, since he was in a great deal of pain and far away from home, the doctor recommended that Larry stay until he either (1) passed the stone; or (2) had surgery to remove it. So Larry checked into his $400 a night hospital room. Once I knew he was settled, I checked into a $9 a night boarding house across the street that was recommended by the hospital staff.

Outside of our doctor, everyone else in the hospital and boarding house spoke French. I had taken the language for five years in high school and a semester in college. Surprising even myself, I was soon able to carry on limited conversations with the nurses, the patients, and their families. By the end of the week, we were engaging in long chats in French, punctuated by broken French —moi!—and broken English —the native Québécois.

My poor husband, however, didn’t remember any of his two years of high school French. I walked over from the boarding house each morning, and we spent the day together—when I wasn’t chatting with “mes nouveaux amis”—holding hands and watching French television. To add insult to injury, his roommate’s doctor’s prescription to pass the stone was for him to drink beer—lots of it. So every night, a group of his family and friends came over with several six packs of Molson’s, and they had a grand old time. Unfortunately, the beer didn’t flush out the stone. Larry’s roommate had surgery on Wednesday to remove it.

The same fate was to befall Larry on Thursday. The surgery was considered ‘minor,’ but it required ‘retrieving’ the stone. Ouch! Not a great way to start off married life.

On Friday, Larry, now stone-free, was released from his “honeymoon suite.” We began our drive back home. Of course, Larry couldn’t drive, so I took the wheel. As I was going down the highway keeping pace with the numerous trucks heading for the border, Larry yelled out, “You’re going ninety miles an hour!” Whoops. Larry had me pull over, and he drove the rest of the way.

As originally planned, Larry and I stopped over at my parents’ cottage on Lake Champlain on the way to Albany, two days earlier than expected. My mother took one look at our sad faces and immediately assumed the marriage had already tanked. We quickly explained where we had spent the last five days. Our marriage was still intact, although our honeymoon was definitely a disaster.

Larry and I tried to make up for our lost honeymoon several times before getting it right. The next summer we headed to Nantucket, only to be delayed a couple of days by a hurricane. The next trip was to Washington, DC, where gale winds closed down the National Zoo and knocked out all the electricity in our expensive hotel. We certainly got past all those vacation missteps, as we are celebrating over forty years of marriage. Yes, our marriage is written in stone, partly in kidney but mostly in love.

My Two Moms

Doris and Fran 1979_Adam BD

My two moms at Adam’s second birthday party. Doris Shapiro is on the left and Frances Cohen is on the right.

Larry has a very special relationship with Mother’s Day: He was born on this Hallmark Card Holiday on May 9, 1948.

I can only imagine the joy Doris and Ernie felt when their second child, a son, was born. He was a beautiful baby. From what I heard from his mother and still hear from his three sisters, Larry was an easy child: quiet, never got into trouble, spent time either in his room or with his friends on the baseball field. He grew up, went to college in Boston, and completed his master’s degree at Syracuse University.

By the time he finished graduate school, Larry’s parents were more than anxious for him to meet a nice Jewish girl and settle down. After meeting me at the Purim party, Larry kept me under wraps until that May, when he invited me to his house. I had a major strike against me; I had completely forgotten his birthday, which fell on Mother’s Day that year. But Doris let that pass once Larry brought me home. Jewish? Check! Nice family? Check! Single and available? Double check! By the end of June she and Larry’s Bubbie Rose, began to put some pressure on him. So what if we had only been dating for three months?

“So what is your relationship with this person?” Doris asked.

“I guess we’re going steady,” Larry replied.

“Steady, smeady,” huffed Bubbie Rose. “She’s a nice Jewish girl.You don’t go steady. You get married.”

Larry and I dated through the summer, and August, we were already talking marriage. Of course, we didn’t share that with our families, but Doris was still working on it. One day, she showed me her engagement ring. “Whoever marries my son will wear this ring,” she told me. Very subtle!

When his first attempt at proposing to me in Saratoga National Battlefield was thwarted by a bee sting, Larry tossed romance out the window and asked me to marry him on our walk home from Rosh Hashanah services on September 28. We shared the news with my parents over the phone, but we saved our big announcement for his parents at the Yom Kippur Break-the-Fast on October 6, which coincided with Ernie’s birthday.

“I have a special birthday present for you, Dad,” Larry announced over coffee and birthday cake.

“Another ugly tie?” snorted one of his sisters.

“No, I’m giving you a daughter-in-law.”

Everyone started hugging us and yelling “Mazel tov!” Doris was true to her summer promise. She ran into the bedroom, grabbed the engagement ring, and put it on my finger. I am sure I am one of the only people in the world who had her future mother-in-law place an engagement ring on her finger. Again, very subtle!

After that day, Mr. and Mrs. Shapiro became “Mom and Dad.” I was really fortunate in that I now had two sets of parents who loved me deeply. Larry’s parents treated me as well as, if not sometimes better, than their own children. Mom, happy with Larry’s choice, often kiddingly said, “If you two ever get divorced, I get custody of you.” I may not have been able to make a brisket or a bed as well as my mother-in-law, but for the most part, I could do no wrong. When we delivered two grandchildren, it was the icing on the cake.

Throughout their lives, Mom and Dad were wonderful in-laws. They took great joy not only in their children’s accomplishments, but also in the accomplishments of their daughter/sons-in-law. They adored their seven grandchildren and showered all of us with their love and their generosity for many years.

My parents and in-laws hit it off from the first time they met, and they spent many happy times together as dear friends as well as mishpocha. When they both retired, my in-laws purchased a condo a minute’s walk from my parents. Ernie and Bill golfed; Doris and Fran shopped and shared confidences over coffee.

When Mom died during heart surgery in April 1994, we were all devastated. And when Dad followed her a mere eight months later, the grief was overwhelming. Since their passing, so many wonderful events have occurred where they were not there physically but were there in our hearts. At so many occasions—bar and bat mitzvahs, graduations, weddings, the birth of their great-grandchildren—at least one of the children or grandchildren have said, “Mom and Dad would have been so proud!”

A few years before Mom passed away, I gave her a framed poem entitled “My Other Mother.” The first lines read, “You are the mother I received/the day I wed your son/And I want to say/Thank you Mom for the loving things you’ve done.” She kept it on the wall in her bedroom. When she passed away, I took the poem and hung it in our bedroom, next to our wedding picture. So on this Mother’s Day, I want to tip my hat to my two moms, the one I received at birth and the one I was given through marriage.

Love in the Time of Retirement

Larry and I enjoying our retirement in  Mission San Juan Capistrano, California.

Larry and I enjoying our retirement in Mission San Juan Capistrano, California.

Ah! Young love! This is the time in life where two individuals cannot get enough of each other! Each moment away from one another is agony, and even when they are together in the same room, there is a desperate need to touch and hold and talk. Their wish is to share every waking moment together.

Yes, my husband and I were like that once. We met, we courted, we married, and we spent the next thirty-six years of our lives juggling our relationship with children, jobs, and outside commitments.

Then, Larry and I retired, and we got our wish. We were together twenty-four/seven, but we weren’t young anymore. As a matter of fact, living under the same roof resulted in a period of major adjustment.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love my husband dearly, and I am so grateful that we have had the opportunity to retire in good health. It is just that—well — love in the time of retirement may test even the closest relationship.

Our first battle took place soon after Larry retired. We were in the kitchen, cleaning up after dinner. As was our usual routine, Larry was putting away the leftovers while I was putting the dirty plates in the dishwasher. He looked over while he was closing the refrigerator door and offered, “Here, Marilyn, let me show you how to load a dishwasher.”

I stopped mid-dish, and stared at him. “What do you mean by that?”

“You’re not doing it right. I can show you how to do it properly.”

“So you mean to tell me I have been loading this thing WRONG for the last three decades?”

“Yes, my way is much more efficient!” We had a brief, spirited discussion as to whether he wanted to accept my tried and true way of doing it or if he wanted to wash dishes on his own for the rest of our married life. Thankfully, he saw it my way.

The second conflict occurred six months later when I retired. I planned to set up my calendar and some files in our home office. When I tried to find room on our computer desk, not an inch was available. “Larry,” I said, “do you think you can organize all those piles on the desk so that we can share the space?”

“I retired first” was his response. “I already claimed the desk. You will need to find another spot.”

Initially, I managed to carve out a few inches of blank oak, but it wasn’t worth the fights that ensued when I moved any of his piles, which he referred to as his “filing system.” I eked out a two-inch crevice between the computer and the printer that allowed me to prop up a few folders. It took three years to have the sense to get my own lap top so I could have the flexibility to work on any surface in the house.

Over the next few months, we played an uneasy game of adjusting. Larry spent a great deal of time following me around closing cabinet doors and drawers I continually left open, a bad habit I had had my entire life. I learned to accept the fact that he was king of the television clicker. He could watch several television shows simultaneously, including a couple of basketball games, reruns of The Big Bang Theory, and a showing of a favorite movie. I found this tolerable as long as I was multi-tasking on the couch —doing a crossword puzzle, checking emails, reading a book, and cutting coupons—while he ruled the remote. My annoying habit cancelled out his.

I know that I am not the only person who has experienced post-retirement angst. One friend, whose son had been in a playgroup with Adam over thirty years earlier, told me that her husband had acquired this overwhelming need to be with her wherever she went. Grocery shopping, dropping off mail at the post office, running to the drug store for a prescription, was now regarded by Steve as a two-person outing. “If Larry isn’t busy,” Fern suggested, “maybe we can arrange a weekly playdate between our two husbands. Then I can get out of the house by myself for a couple of hours.”

My friend Judy commented that only after they were both retired did she realize how ‘uber-organized’ her husband was. A week before they left for their two-month stay in Florida, Judy was haphazardly stacking clothing on her bed and throwing cosmetics and toiletries into a bin. Charlie strolled into the bedroom and opened up a file marked “Florida.” It included a detailed list of everything he needed to pack, including the number of pairs of socks, shirts, and shoes he was bringing. Another list included restaurants in Naples, with notes on ratings and menus. He even planned their drive down to Florida in minute detail: He had researched hotels and restaurants en route on Trip Advisor, printed out weather forecasts from weather.com, and created a chart of estimated travel times between stops from Google maps. “He researches every single detail and isn’t willing to leave anything to chance,” Judy said. “It’s driving me nuts!”

Quite a few of my friends have commented that their retired husbands, who managed people all their working life, feel the need to manage their wives. “Mark loves to come up with projects,” Melody shared with me over coffee. “He suggests these projects on a weekly basis, pointing out, for example, that the linen closet needs to be reorganized or the bookshelves in the fourth bedroom need to be cleaned out. Of course, Mark is the idea person. I am the person who is expected to implement his projects.”

When I talk to couples about adjusting to retirement, I find that the wives are much more forthcoming about their experiences. The men I spoke to, for the most part, were oblivious.

This is not just part of our generation. Joan, a friend from North Dakota, remembered mediating a fight between her in-laws. After many years of farming acres of wheat and soy, the husband had decided to help his wife with her vegetable garden. While they were cutting up potatoes for planting, he insisted that each potato mound have five eyes. The wife explained that she had always limited the mounds to three eyes. When he tried to drag his daughter-in-law into the discussion, Joan demurred, saying, “I am sure it all depends on the year.” She said, in the end, they decided on four eyes, a nice compromise.

Compromise—the bottom line as two people learn to live their dream, to spend most of their time together. Maybe love is relearning give-and-take and embracing each other’s quirks.

My favorite piece of advice came from a man who held a high position in the federal government for many years before he and his wife retired. “I get to make the big decisions,” he explained. “Who should run for president of the United States. Whether or not we should go to war with Syria. And she makes the less important decisions, such as where we live, what we eat, with whom we spend our time, when and where we are going on vacation. It works out really well for us.”As I hope it works out for all the retired love birds I know and love.