KERRY HUBARTT COLUMN: The importance of marital companionship

Kerry Hubartt

I wrote about my dad in this space six years, two months and one week ago — the day before Father’s Day, 2012. He was 90 years old.

Dad died last week, less than 11 weeks before his 97th birthday.

My column in 2012 was a tribute to the man who helped shape my character and instill in me the principles that kept me on track throughout my life.

This time I write about him with a different focus: companionship — the bond forged between a man and woman who love each other as one and remain devoted throughout a long marriage. For my dad that companionship ended when my mom died in 1999. Dad was going on 78. She was 76. We didn’t see it coming.

After more than 57 years together, suddenly my dad was alone. The woman who stood by his side since before he went off to the Philippines in World War II remained his partner through the rearing of three children and into retirement. They had always been together, worshipping and serving in their church, attending my basketball games, shooting archery, fishing, swimming, bowling, traveling, camping, going to my kids’ basketball games and graduations, helping us build our house.

But suddenly mom was gone. And being alone hit Dad hard. He eventually found love and companionship in marrying my long-widowed aunt, and life could take on new meaning for him again in his later years. Loneliness was not going to be his end.

After his death early Sunday morning, Aug. 19, an ominous cloud settled over my wife and I as we pondered our loss, and its meaning was in the realization that we, too, will likely be separated one day as my mom and dad were and as my wife’s mother and father were as well.

We’ve been married for 47 years, and the thought of either one of us losing the other is dreadful. The example of our parents and grandparents being together through thick and thin for decades upon decades has been part of their legacy to us. And the example my mom and dad gave us of a couple who goes everywhere and does everything together made our doing so the natural way of things. The right way. The preferred way. The way we always wanted and always hoped it would be.

But this last week has brought us closer to the reality of the end of life as we know it here on earth. And it sobers us to have to wonder how we will be able to handle it when it happens. It’s just not something we want to think about, but it’s something, I believe, we both silently process and prepare for in ways that help to protect the one who remains alone.

My wife has never wanted to think about losing me, much less talk about it. But she’s the one who brought it up late one night as we were lying down to sleep after a day of making the final plans for Dad’s funeral.

“I just can’t imagine losing you,” she said. “But it’s going to happen to one of us someday.”

“I know,” I whispered, punctuating the reply with a heavy sigh. And we held hands softly as we tried to put that thought out of our minds, and we drifted off to sleep.

Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.