Companionship through the years

One of my main tasks as a public relations manager for a retirement community corporation is to secure media coverage for our residents and the communities.

Never is this position more rewarding than when I work closely with the senior citizens who call our communities home to learn more about them and their histories. Their experiences and stories are bound to keep you entertained, sometimes for hours if you let them.

You can imagine that Valentine’s Day usually is a very popular time of year for media coverage featuring our residents. The media tends to love stories about married couples who have been together for the better half of a century. They also often jump on stories about seniors who met in our retirement communities later in life and married, sometimes after the death of a first spouse.

I’m constantly amazed at the positive outlook many of our residents have on life and companionship, regardless if they’ve been married for 70 years or 70 days.

Simply put, these people in the twilight of life know how to live; almost as if they’re actually closer to the dawn.

As someone who is just exiting the toddler years of marriage, if I have the opportunity to talk relationships with a couple that’s been going strong for decades, you better believe that I’m pulling up a seat.

Sure, there are some fairly large differences between generations, but the guts of a relationship are still the same. There’s a reason why sayings such as “Happy wife, happy life” have survived for as long as they have, for example. The times change, but people don’t.

One couple I spoke with, who will celebrate their 73 years of marriage this year, told me there is no “key” to marriage.

“There’s no easy way out,” the husband said. “You have to work hard. Just like in anything else in life, you have to work hard. There are no shortcuts.”

Even after 73 years together as man and wife, the gentleman said there are days he wants to go “running for the hills.” After stating such, he turned to his wife with soft eyes and a smile begging for forgiveness, quickly following up with “but I never have, and never will.”

Her eyes filled with the glistening happiness and understanding that he was seeking as she playfully gave his shoulder a push and responded, “We probably should have both headed for the hills years ago when we were able. We’d have a tough time getting there now with these walkers.”

After some shared laughs, she had her own words of advice. “Communication. If you ever lose that, there’s nothing left.”

Years ago when Heather and I were still dating, we stopped for lunch at a local Wendy’s. As we sat down, we noticed an older couple sitting next to us finishing their meals. They put a Frosty between the two of them and began sharing the dessert. They must have sat there for close to a half hour, occasionally scooping out ice cream, looking around the restaurant and out the windows.

They never said a word to each other.

Most might think of this as a break down in communication. After all those years together, they had nothing left to say.

Wrong. They never said a word to each other because they didn’t need to. Their communication was in the way they looked at each other, the way he handed her a napkin and the way she took his glasses off the table and cleaned them with her handkerchief.

I told the couple of 73 years this story. They shared an all-knowing “we’ve been there” look and grasped each others hands.

“Sometimes that’s all the communication you need.”

Beardsley, a native of Loyalsock Township, is a former Sun-Gazette reporter. His column is published on the third Sunday of each month.

He may be reached at