Love, real love, is forged through trials and joys. It weathers the storms and basks in the sunlight after they clear.
It isn’t easy to build a life together that can last until the end of our days. Romantic notions of love are fleeting and what is needed is endless patience, compromise and a willingness to talk things through.
One evening many years ago, at a local dance hall in country New South Wales, 20-year-old Fred met 16-year-old Faye and they danced.
A couple of weeks later they met again at another district dance somewhere. By this time Fred was sure Faye was the one. Faye must have felt the same way about him.
When Faye turned 17 that year, Fred proposed. About a month later they were married at a small Anglican church in Lithgow, away from their community in Rylstone where they met.
It was a small wedding.
It was 1950s Australia and sectarianism between Catholics and Protestants was rife. Fred was Catholic and Faye was from the Church of England. Faye’s family objected to the wedding and refused to attend. Fred’s parents were not there for similar reasons.
“It was an awful time if you were Catholic back then,” Fred recalls. “I was called all sorts of names growing up. But what could you do? You just had to turn the other cheek.”
The gossip through town was that their marriage wouldn’t last. Some unkind people suggested they were married because Faye was pregnant out of wedlock.
“But we showed them,” says Fred. “Our first son was born on the 5 November, the following year.”
It was, as they said at the time, a mixed marriage. Many people back home continued to whisper awful things about them. But they were determined to face it together. Even with no family attending, Fred still says their wedding day was a happy one for them.
“We spent our honeymoon at Mt Victoria hotel and four days in Sydney.” He smiles at the memory.
It must have been hard to stand up to the prejudice. But Fred is pragmatic about it all.
“I just made up my mind about Faye and that was it. The people who mattered to us didn’t mind,” he answers.
“I guess bigotry is still around in different forms. All I can say is get things straight from the beginning and talk it through.”
If the early years of their marriage were a little difficult, it was because they didn’t have a lot of money.
“I was working as an apprentice mechanic. I was earning £10 a week for my family. My boss took pity on me and increased it to £11 after I married. But that was it.”
65 years, four sons, six grandkids and nine great-grandchildren later, Fred and Faye are still married and ageing happily at a nursing home in the western suburbs of Sydney. Faye is now in the late stages of dementia and Fred is her constant companion.
When asked about the secret to their long marriage, 86-year-old Fred takes Faye’s hand and says “We did everything together. Our marriage was a real team effort. I don’t regret a moment of our time together.”
Elements of this story have been published in Eternity News