21. Practicality

It’s now time to discuss the fictitious Sam and Julie. The key players in a matrimonial “merger.” Living together for very practical reasons.

Their story line may sound odd. A man and woman brought together based on the proximities of time, space, and circumstances. Nothing more.

It may seem strange to us now. But not necessarily in other cultures and periods in history. Marriage was often seen as an economic or political necessity in which human notions of romantic love had little or nothing to do with it.

So, practicality in marriage (or even cohabitation) is therefore not an oddity. It has been around for centuries and is even enculturated in some regions of the world today.

As an AARP volunteer, I know of many older American couples, having lost their first spouse, link up with someone else either in marriage or as a live-in companion.

My mother did that. And I thought it was wonderful.

It occurs now with older folks for various reasons:  relieving loneliness, overcoming economic challenges, mitigating medical caregiving needs, and eliminating property maintenance issues.

But my fictitious Sam and Julie were in their late 30s when they decided to “merge.” This blog isn’t meant to be a drama, so we don’t know what their day-to-day life was like over the decades they were married.

It doesn’t matter, because whatever their relationship was like while growing up seemed to be perpetuated in adulthood.

And Clay’s birth tells us the relationship must have had its special moments.

The French use the term, ennui. It is a kind of boredom that comes from living in an emotional vacuum, an existence in which no one is either happy or unhappy. Just an easy, comfortable, predictable, routine existence punctuated with brief moments of either joy or sadness.

An ennui marriage is just a necessary burden, but one worth enduring because it is safe. Safety is all its participants expect.

The storyline for Sam and Julie is significant because their merger-like marriage lasted decades. They raised a child. They grew old together.

The connection they made as children was a strong bond, no matter what they called it.

The problem with that kind of relationship is that it allows complacency. The “other” has always been in “my” life and things will continue that way.

But we know this isn’t true.

In Sam’s case it was Julie’s Alzheimer’s and its debilitating effects on Sam’s emotions. Maybe even his mental health. 


Professional psychologists, therapists, and church pastors tell us we should talk with each other before the inevitable arrives.

REALLY talk with each other.

But more important is the need to talk about how we feel. And how we’ll likely feel when the time comes for parting. Through death, debilitating physical disorders, and maybe Alzheimer’s.

My wife and I discussed end-of-life contingencies. It started with writing a will after my brother died at age 31. He left a widow and two daughters.

Our first will concentrated on who we wanted to care for our young sons if we both died.

Decades later we set up a comprehensive trust. Estate stuff.  POAs, wills, distribution of property, and other mundane but important considerations.

But those were practicalities. Talking about our feelings was something else altogether.

Talking about feelings started when our parents became ill and died. How we missed them! How we felt like orphans after the last parent died.

How strange it felt to be moved to the front of the boat.

Something like that might have happened with Julie and Sam.


The storyline I used for the fictitious Julie and Sam is an ongoing acceptance of the status quo.  Day after day.

One of the most difficult movies for me to watch is The Remains of the Day. I keep thinking the butler, Mr. Stevens, will finally wake up and realize what a fool he is. Duty. Precision. Robot-like devotion to duty. A measured and orderly life that ignores all the passions around him and the obvious love Miss Kenton has for him.

When he does come to his senses, it is far too late. The Miss Kenton he once knew disappears from his view on the back of a passenger train. 

Like Julie disappears into the fog of Alzheimer’s.

I could have changed the story line for Sam and Julie. The death of their parents or some other dramatic event could have been written in, causing them to change the regular routine long enough to address the future.

In EMOTIONAL, not just practical terms. Ways that cause them to admit they are people with feelings, vulnerabilities, weaknesses.

Perhaps that is something Julie should have initiated. Like Joy did for “Jack” (C.S. Lewis) in Shadowlands. “Happiness and pain. That’s the deal.” Like it or not.

For some reason we men put up emotional barriers to certain kinds of realities, and it takes the unrestrained emotion of women to break them down.

Miss Kenton did not do that with Mr. Stevens. She suffered quietly and let Mr. Stevens go on with his dismal little life.

To the end.

Real life isn’t written by a guy like me who manipulates the storyline any way I wish. We, the participants, write the story.

And the only good way to do that is for the people involved to open the door and effectively, sensitively grapple with whatever future walks in.

Continue to seek ways to take care of yourself.

©2020 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved

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