Inspirational Couples

By Janey Womeldorf

Inspirational Couples

Two couples have inspired us in our 25 years of married life. One couple inspired our “present,” the other shaped our future, and neither had any idea until we thanked them years later.

My husband and I met the first couple over 20 years ago not long after we were married. We were doggedly plugging away at our future, working full-time and both attending night school. Homework, cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping consumed our evenings and weekends, and a brain-fluff Sunday-afternoon movie was the extent of our entertainment.

It was the company Christmas party and attendance was high – the company was paying. Familiar colleagues chatted and laughed; the rest made polite conversation with people whose names they had forgotten, and “Oh my gosh you look so different; I love your outfit, and where are you sitting?” echoed around the ballroom.

I knew “Hilly” from work, but had never met her husband. All I knew was that she had been married for ages and was expecting her first grandchild. I heard Hilly before I saw her; her infectious laugh perfectly matched her radiant personality, and she was the sort of person you always hoped came to the party. My husband and I eagerly made our way over, keen to finally put faces to the names. Twenty minutes and several more colleague introductions later, we had done “the round” and went in search of a drink and a table.

Dinner would not be served for another thirty minutes and, to the chagrin of the DJ, most people (including ourselves) were already rooted to their seats. His face finally lit up when one couple dared to hit the dance floor. Hilly and John twirled, swooned and laughed like newlyweds, and they radiated happiness. It was heartwarming and magical to watch. I promised myself we would dance too – later; I had my Christmas heels on, and my feet ached.

Hilly and John were back up dancing the moment the tables were cleared. My husband and I joined the crowd for two songs before returning to our seats under the pretense of thirst. The truth was, our life was too sensible, we were too busy, and barely three years into our marriage, we found making the effort to have fun exhausting. Hilly and John were in their mid fifties, never sat down, and unlike us, they oozed fun together. I wanted to cry.

We had fallen in the rut of spending quiet nights in – under the guise of romance – when the reality is, nothing is more romantic than getting out, having fun and laughing together. When had that stopped for us? Hilly and John’s reminder was like a punch in the face. Humbled but inspired, we introduced date-night Wednesday (which is still going strong over twenty years later); we compiled our fun-things-to-do list; we agreed to earmark a percentage of our income as fun money, and to ensure we didn’t retreat into the habit of staying in, if ever one of us uttered “it might be fun,” the other had to continue with “then it might be worth it.” Hilly and John had, thankfully, halted our seriousness and re-instilled a crucial priority for a happy marriage: Working hard is important but having fun together is paramount.

We did not know that a different couple would soon steer our future. The first time we walked into my close friend’s parents’ house, I was mesmerized by the simplicity of the framed picture hanging above their fireplace. A deserted road, lined by spindly trees, stretched as far as the eye could see before finally disappearing into the horizon. It begged you to climb in and follow it – you just knew something inviting and inspirational lay ahead. It pictured the ultimate road less travelled.

“We took it in France,” they told us; their faces glowed as they shared the story behind the picture. They had always loved France; vacationed there as often as possible, and although they were still over ten years from retirement, had decided to retire there. They had dreamed it, researched it, and had it all planned; they were even taking French lessons already. We had never met anybody with such out-of-the box aspirations; if anything, most people feared retirement. Until then, we thought planning for retirement meant a nest egg, a paid-for house, and enough savings to pay for medical insurance and the occasional trip. We were stunned. It had never even occurred to us to imagine a path less travelled for our own retirement. That picture and their dreams made our heads spin, and it was all we could talk about on the way home.

Their courage inspired and planted a seed in us that would flourish. Over 20 years later, our nearing retirement also has an international flair; our house will have wheels, and we cannot wait. Tragically, my friend’s father died a few years before he and his lovely wife got to live in France – and we were heartbroken for them. Our own retirement will now come sooner rather than later. My husband and I both agree that retirement is the reward for working and sadly, life constantly reminds us that some things shouldn’t be postponed.

A few years ago, while on vacation, I snapped a random photo of the strangely-inviting, yet empty path that stretched ahead of us during a stroll through the woods. I gave little thought to the image that filled the lens until I saw the photo – it was like a reincarnation of my friend’s parents’ picture. Enlarged onto canvas, it now hangs on our wall and intrigues, invites, reminds and inspires us as much now as it did all those years ago.

We are blessed to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this year. We have been given much advice over that time but aside from our parents, no couples’ influence has stood the test of time like these two. They inspired by example, and we feel richer it:

Never stop dancing. And never stop dreaming.

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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One Response to “Inspirational Couples”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Janey, you are right, time waits for no one so we may as well do the things we want to while we can. Sounds like you have a fun future ahead of you. Good luck.

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