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Growing Old Together

Since we got married, my wife and I have never celebrated Valentine’s Day: no card, no chocolate, no red roses, and no candlelight dinner. Valentine’s Day is just an ordinary day for us. Yet, our marriage has lasted through all these years. I met my wife, Lynn, more than forty years ago in Tatalon, a squatters’ area in Quezon City. We were both organizing the squatters to fight for their land. She was a young U.P. student and I was a Jesuit in formation studying at the Ateneo de Manila University. Lynn was a simple person, politically astute and committed to serve the marginalized. That’s what I liked most about her when we first met. She could critically talk about the national situation with ease. Of course, she was pretty. I was not at first attracted to her. Neither was she attracted to me. After all, she was in a relationship. I had a crush on one of the organizers from another Catholic school, but that was it. I thought she was also in a relationship. The first time Lynn and I went out for a walk, we became so immersed in our conversation that unknown to us it was already past midnight. I did not want to go home. I knew immediately that it was the beginning of a love affair. Lynn did not expressly tell me that she loved me, but I felt it. I was not totally surprised that what began as a casual conversation would lead to something else – love. Some people asked me why I left the seminary. Was it because of Lynn? I left the seminary because the military was after me. Because of my organizing work in Tatalon, I was considered a subversive by the Marcos military and was included in their wanted list. My leaving the seminary was inevitable. I did not want to be a faceless statistic, buried in an unknown place, a victim of extra-judicial killing like what happened to some people I knew. So I continued organizing the squatters and the workers in the company of other like-minded organizers where I felt safe. That was the end of my Jesuit vocation. Lynn and I shared a common interest in serving the marginalized, in sacrificing one’s self for the sake of others and in working for the common good. These were the same values I learned and internalized as a Jesuit in formation. But that was not the only reason why we tied the knot. We tied the knot because we were in love. I was comfortable with the idea that our marriage was imperfect, that we were both weak in many ways. But I was willing to take the risks. It would be too presumptuous on my part to expect an absolute marital bliss in the future. What I could do was to love her one day at a time. We have stayed together for the most part of our lives. We migrated to the United States where our two daughters were born. Now we have four beautiful grandchildren. We still disagree on many things. I sulk more than she does. But I have not, for the life of me, seriously considered leaving Lynn. When things are rough and seem wrong, I could not bear the thought of making our years of being together come to naught. Of the two of us, I am more into going out and having happy hour with my friends, men and women alike. I am at times distracted by beautiful women, which Lynn probably thinks is pointless and petty. She probably knows it is a passing thing. And it is. Lynn has continued to remain simple in her taste. She still takes things in stride. She has remained hardworking and prefers to spend her time in keeping the family together. She may not agree with me on what comprises a romantic evening, but because of her I’ve learned that there are more things that are significantly important than chocolates or red roses: raising our daughters the proper way, being there for our grandchildren, and caring for those in need. Come Valentine’s Day, Lynn and I will not be like many of those lovers who will exchange cards, gifts, chocolates, flowers. It’s going to be a normal day for us; nothing special. When I look at ourselves after more than 40 years in a relationship, the fire of passion may no longer be as intense, but we have gotten to know each other that all we need is each other. In times of marital doubt, the temptation to look for the “ideal someone” is real. But then reality hits me that after 40 years there are not many out there who will accept me as Lynn does. Perhaps it’s because we have grown old together and have realized that we are meant for each other.

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