Cupid can strike at any age
By Michael M. Bates
In the waning days of the 109th Congress, there was little joy on the GOP side of the aisle. The Republicans, tossed out of the majority last month, must give way to Democrats impatient to restore the highest ethical standards to government. You know, Democrats like Dollar Bill Jefferson of Louisiana, who won a landslide re-election race despite the FBI finding $90,000 in bribe money in his freezer.
Even in the midst of the GOP angst came some good news. According to the Congressional Record, Indiana Republican Mike Pence took to the House floor earlier this month and told colleagues:
"On behalf of an extraordinary career, but what we know will be an extraordinary future, I am pleased to announce Henry Hyde's recent marriage on the day after Thanksgiving. We wish you all the best, our friend, for many, many years."
Illinois' Henry Hyde wasn't beaten in the Democratic sweep. He had announced early last year that he'd retire after 32 years in Congress. Mr. Hyde was a rarity: a Republican first sent to Congress in the wake of Watergate, a year that Democrats won over four dozen seats.
Now he's 82, ending his career, and not in the best of health. Yet he and his new bride still chose to begin a marriage. I think that's terrific. And incredibly sweet. Most of us have an innate yearning to not journey through life on our own.
Many marry when they're young and that's as nature decreed it. The human race continues. Unfortunately, many marriages do not. Death and divorce take their toll and people confront their later years by themselves.
That doesn't bother some folks. For them, being alone doesn't necessarily mean loneliness and they're quite satisfied. Others feel a need for a spouse. They seek someone with whom they can share the remaining days in a committed relationship. The fortunate ones find that person.
These are genuine risk takers. The more years we rack up, the more baggage we accumulate and the more idiosyncrasies we develop. It takes a huge leap of faith to believe all of that can be set aside and a real love can flourish and prevail.
Another recent groom is actor Hugh O'Brian. His name might not be familiar to youngsters, but in the 1950s his TV depiction of Wyatt Earp made him a star. Since then, he's primarily devoted himself to the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership, created to develop young people's leadership skills.
This summer, at 81, Mr. O'Brian tied the knot for the first time. In typical showbiz fashion, the wedding was distinctive. It was dubbed "A Wedding to Die For," was conducted in California's Forest Lawn cemetery and featured Debbie Reynolds serenading the newlyweds.
"This is my first, and most definitely, my last trip down the aisle," the groom said in a written statement. It turns out that Hugh is a cradle-robber; the new Mrs. O'Brian is only 54 years old.
Another senior celebrity who decided to give matrimony a shot is California politician Jerry Brown. Yes, that Jerry Brown. Once known as Gov. Moonbeam, Mr. Brown eschewed the executive mansion for an apartment, drove a junker, dabbled in Buddhism and dallied with singer Linda Ronstadt in the 70s.
At the ripe old age of 67 he got hitched last year. It was his first trip down the aisle. A friend told the San Francisco Chronicle: "Jerry has big issues of mortality and immortality, so it (the marriage) makes sense."
Perhaps the thought of eternity is one contemplated by other older people entering wedded bliss. There are surely enough other issues usually involved, matters such as tax implications, Social Security and retirement benefits, children and inheritance considerations.
Despite the hurdles, many older people, not just politicians and celebrities, find happiness, contentment and companionship in the promise of marriage. There are worse ways to face the twilight than to be with someone you love and respect.
This column by Michael M. Bates appeared in the December 14, 2006 Reporter Newspapers.