Bob was born in 1920 and Jane was born in 1928. There are black and white photographs of their parents’ weddings on display in their hallway. His mother wore a Victorian “Gibson Girl” style dress, with her long hair in the updo of the period. Her mother wore a “Flapper Girl” style wedding dress which I had never seen before. It was knee length, and she wore it with Mary Jane dance shoes, and a very large showgirl headdress with a very long white veil that swept around her onto the floor. She wore dramatic evening makeup.
Bob and Jane grew up during The Great Depression of the 1930’s, and during that period all of the women were either former Flapper Girls or former Gibson Girls, and the grandmothers were former Victorians. They remember them very well.
They got married in 1949. She was a twenty one year old nurse from Wisconsin and he was a twenty nine year old medical doctor from North Dakota. They met at work, which was a private medical practice near Menlo Park.
Now he’s ninety three and she’s eighty five, and they live together in their house that they bought in 1963. It’s Saturday night and they’re trying to figure out how to operate their new TV so they can watch the Lawrence Welk show. He has one remote control and she has the other. He rolls his wheelchair up to the TV and she stays behind on the couch. Without looking back at her, he calls out to her, “Now push the button in the middle that says “Okay”. Are you pushing it?” He doesn’t know it, but she put her remote control down and picked up their cordless phone instead, and she’s searching the face of the phone for a button that says “Okay.” She calls out to him, “I can’t find it.”
Luckily they fixed the TV in time to watch their show. Bob transferred out of his wheelchair and sat on the couch next to her. His favorite hobby was playing the trombone and in college he played in a twelve piece band. As the Lawrence Welk show aired one beautiful love song after another, Bob began to sing out loud and he sounded good. After the show ended they watched the annual Charlie Brown Valentine’s Day special. Charlie Brown was desperate to receive a card from the little red haired girl who he had a crush on, and Snoopy kept making fun of him. He bought a card and then he struggled to muster the courage to give it to her. During the show Bob and Jane had a minor argument over her medication and after they resolved it they went back to watching TV, and then he said, “Is it okay if I rest my head on your lap?” She answered, “yes.”
They’re a very unusual couple. It’s common for eighty-something women to live at home but they’re usually widows. During their generation most husbands died when their wives were only sixty five to seventy years old because they were much older than their wives to begin with, combined with their lower life expectancy, and also back then it was common for people to smoke and drink too much coffee and alcohol. Women lost their husbands while they were still very active, playing tennis and bowling, attending the bible study group at church, and going on short road trips with their friends. The thing that makes Bob and Jane extremely rare is that they’re still together because he’s alive and strong at ninety three, and he’s mentally sharp.
If anyone could have pulled this off it would have been them. He was a medical doctor and she was a nurse until they had kids. Both of them played sports until they couldn’t walk anymore and they maintained a healthy diet. He was a medical doctor at the VA hospital with solid job security, and so instead of having periods of unemployment and losing his savings and putting his retirement plan on hold as most people are forced to do, he continued to build his without interruptions. Additionally, they bought their dream home that they would retire in way back in 1963. It’s a beautiful home that does not have any stairs and it’s located in a very quiet, secluded, scenic suburb with large lots and redwood trees.