Til Death Do Us Part


Love is in the air, but how did it get there? What was the trigger to a love that's withstood the test of time?

If you've ever wondered the same here are the answers straight from the source. Lovers and partners for the last thirty years ATP (the badass war veteran) and RO (the country girl in the big city) tell all...

It's a Sunday afternoon in the suburbs of Montreal. The couple sitting across from me are cuddled up, holdings hands, relaxing. From the way she looks at him and the wry smile on the corner of his mouth I can tell theirs is a deep love story, so I ask them -

When was the first time you saw each other?

RO: The very first time was very embarassing let's say. I had come along, I don't even remember how I got there, it was at one of his and my brothers friends place down in the country, near the river. Myself and my boyfriend at the time walked up the driveway of the fishing shack and they were all standing outside drinking and ATP was there with a bottle of booze in his hands and he was pretty drunk. He was skinny as a rake, you could see his ribs, and he was very bold. He didn't give a shit what he said, but he said something that was quite explicit...we were young it was summer time in the 70's...I mean geez the bras had been burnt! But the guy I was with was smart for a change, so instead of jumping up and having a fit he just shut up and stood there. ATP had a very dangerous reputation at that time. He was recently out of the army, he had been to Vietnam and everybody knew it and knew they shouldn't mess with him, so that was that. I tried to cover myself up and after that I asked my brother, what were those words, those famous words he always repeats back to me, "Where do you get these friends anyway?" That was that. I didn't see him again for many years after that, like 6, 7, 8 years.

What was the first thing that attracted you to the other person?

RO: That was actually the second time we met. Do you remember ATP what it was? I don't know...we were just flirting in a bar, so there wasn't any one thing...

ATP: I liked her from the beginning, but I didn't...I really wasn't looking for a steady at the time. It happened that it was my best friends sister so...from there they lined everything up for us. Someone always kept saying "You don't want to have anything to do with him."

How did you decide to ask RO on a first date? Did you have a plan?

ATP: I just knew we were attracted to each other, so I didn't have to ask anything.

RO: It's true. At the time I had my own apartment in the city, so I don't know what happened. I kept coming down to the country on weekends, so we would see each other then and I invited him to come back to the city with me once. He came back and everything worked out.

What was it like meeting ATP's family for the first time?

RO: He knew my brother well, but not as much the rest of the family. That's what it's like in the country...everyone knows about everyone, but not always that well. And I only met his mother because his father had already passed away when I came along. His mother was a very interesting lady. I really liked her right away. I was trying and hoping she would like me. She was a very Scottish woman, very pretty. She was straight up and straight out. She didn't mess with words, she was nice, a good cook, and she loved ATP to pieces even though she sometimes had reason to want to kill him. You could tell she could be sarcastic though and she wouldn't be nice to someone she didn't like, but she had let me stay there for almost the entire summer. I was at his house almost every weekend.

You guys didn't save yourself for the wedding night then?

RO: Well no because we had our baby in the stroller at the wedding. We actually didn't save ourselves longer than a few hours. (Followed by strong laughter)

How did you find out and tell ATP you were first pregnant?

RO: Well how does anyone find out they're pregnant. You kno... I found out! I didn't have my period, so I took a pregnancy test. ATP wasn't around - he had gone to Texas. He was traveling around for a bit, so I told him on the phone. We had planned on a whole life changing situation for me. I was going to quit my job and we were going to travel around the states together, so after I found this out we were talking and I told him I won't be traveling with you! That's how he found out.

At that point was it clear to you, ATP, that you were going to make this a long-term commitment?

ATP: Well when she told me she was pregnant we both had feelings for each other and there was no way I was going to just say "Fuck it," so I asked her to marry me.

That same day?

RO: No - he called me back the next day and asked me.

Did you get married right away?

RO: Well we didn't...actually...we didn't want to get married right away. We planned on doing it after the baby was born because I didn't want to get married and then find out that babies don't suit us. That was something we told each other from the get go - "We're not getting married just to get divorced." If we were going to get married there was no other option because there would be a baby involved. We didn't want our kid getting used to us being around and then one of us go away. When we were married that was it, so we told each other we would wait and see how we felt once the baby was born and if we both had the same feelings of wanting to get married we would do it. And that's what we did. The baby was four weeks old when we got married - it was good and we were fine.

Were there any close friends or family members that weren't invited to your wedding?

RO: Oh we didn't have any big plans for our wedding. We decided to go to the justice of the peace, city hall. Neither one of us wanted a big hoopty-doo whatsoever, so that's the way it was. Turns out my family had planned a small outdoor reception at their house in the country, it was July, and we had no idea until we got there. We didn't do any of it. They called a few people and invited some friends and it was just a nice little party. It was really great of them to do that for us because there wasn't any stress for us.

What was your favourite moment of the wedding or reception?

ATP: I was just happy I had my honey. She couldn't get away because we was married. (Chuckles)

RO: It was a fun day that's for sure. We rushed home after city hall, got changed, and my brother came to pick us up. That was nice - driving from the city to the country was a fun ride. It was a beautiful day. We were married. Aside from not drinking, because I was still taking care of the baby, everyone had a great time.

What would you say is your most interesting labour story?

RO: Well the scary one was the middle child, of course. That was scary, but that brought us closer together too. I had been in labour for over 24 hours.

ATP: They had already induced you...

RO: The water had already broken and there was no way he was going to be born naturally.Only ATP could talk to me then. Nobody else could talk to me. I couldn't hear anything about having a caesarian until he told me. Thank God because it wasn't easy. Labour isn't easy. It's scary thinking something could be wrong with the baby. Turns out the doctors decision to make it caesarian was the right one because the baby's forehead was struck under my tailbone, so the doctor had to go in and get him. ATP was there in the room with me, they had put a sheet up over me so neither one of us could see anything...

ATP: And the doctor told me I had to stay sitting that I couldn't watch because they wouldn't have time to pick me up off the floor...But she wouldn't go in there without me.

RO: I told them that I wasn't going in there without him. Nope - I wasn't going in. I remember that...I had your hand...I was scared.

ATP: And I had already mentioned to the doctor that I had been to Vietnam and seen a bunch of stuff and helped with all kinds of different stuff, so he said OK but that I had to sit.

RO: And then ATP took the baby as soon as he came out. They put him in a blanket and he wasn't even really cleaned off. They wraped him up to keep him warm and ATP took off with him. He took him down the hall and the baby was crying, but then he stopped crying and everything was cool. While ATP was comforting him the doctors stapled me up and it was OK. He did have a bruise on the bridge of his nose for almost six months after that, a tiny tiny blue mark, but that was all. You want to tell a story ATP?

ATP: Like about how mean you were? You know women in labour...

RO: What do you mean? You said you wanted to go for a smoke! I kept saying "Don't go, don't go!" And with the third baby we had one doctor tell us he didn't think I was pregnant anymore, so I had to go take a special ultrasound and there our girl was! Waving. I was very happy for that.

What was your first fight as a married couple about?

ATP: We never really had bad fights that I can remember...

RO: We had already had other partners we had fought with, so we didn't need any of the adrenaline rush, but we did talk once about the underlying issue behind all our spats and that was money. We talked about how it's the root of all the evils in the world you know? So the stress would come from lack of money and, yeah, we would end up arguing about it, but it never got to the point where we were yelling and screaming at each other. And we never did that in front of the kids. We had a dog that wouldn't allow us to scream at each other. He would get between us and howl! It was even difficult for us to slow dance in the kitchen because the dog would get between us. Yes we had arguments, but we never had screaming, yelling fights. Nobody has to and the one time that we did nobody got hurt. ATP left for a few days. We realized that we needed to readjust our thinking and thought about whether to get back together or divorce, so we got back together. There were a few times like that when he left, but he came back.

What was your first freak-out as a new parent about?

RO: Remember that night - we were very inexperienced with kids because I hadn't spent a lot of time around kids and I don't think ATP had either. Our first born was a few weeks old and he was crying non stop for quite a while. It was 2 o'clock in the morning on a weekend. We were living downtown at the time...We got up, got dressed, and we said "OK we don't know what to do." The baby wouldn't stop crying and there's nothing we could do to make him stop crying, so we brought him to the Montreal Children's Hospital. We lived down the street at the time, so we bundled him up, as much as we had to in summer, and we brought him to the hospital. They took care of him right away and everything seemed to be OK the next day. There was nothing wrong with him. He was having cramps and he wasn't digesting, so they gave him sugar water. He drank it down and that was that. Right there we were both panicking...

ATP: Because he wouldn't stop crying...

RO: It was so nerve-racking. It really was. My parents weren't near me, I had no one to call and neither did he. So, we had to do something and that's what we did. After that we figured we could handle anything. There weren't many emergencies after that.

ATP: The general practicioner made appointments for us, but other than that there wasn't anything serious. After a while we started to understand what he needed, if we had to take him to the doctor or not. Sometimes it was hunger, sometimes it was a belly-ache.

RO: We had to use common sense.

ATP: But the doctor chuckled at us when we got there.

RO: I think he could see that we were new at this, so that made us feel better.

What surprised you the most about becoming a parent?

RO: You don't expect those feeling right ATP? I mean you see other people with their kids and how they act, but because we hadn't spent much time around kids we didn't expect to have those overwhelming feelings...when they're babies - I mean that first look...you can't expect the feeling. I didn't realize it was a totally different kind of love that you get for your kids.

ATP: Strange little boogers...

What was your fondest memory of the kids when they were little?

ATP: Well it's amazing watching kids learn. It is. You teach them some things that's alright, but for them to learn and grasp. To see their different facial expressions. Little things like that. And then they get bigger. It's all part of it. They get bigger and bigger. It's surprising.

Can you think of the scariest memory?

ATP: All of them deciding all together that they should stick something in a wall socket. Either a nail, a fork, or a knife. And the power going out. And wondering what was happening. Then to find out they were electrocuting themselves and ALL THREE of them did it!

RO: And I wasn't home for any of it!

What about the the funest moment?

RO: We used to put on rock - they know all the old rock and roll songs. We used to dance in the kitchen and twirl and laugh. Yeah we had fun.

ATP: Watching them all walk down the street holding hands and the dog on the leash. Flying.

RO: Yeah walking. We used to all go together. I'd be holding the leash usually and we'd all hold hands after that. They'd take off running. We didn't have a lot of money, but we had fun anyways.

ATP: Money wasn't an issue though. We didn't have it, so there was no sense arguing about it. I stayed home and cooked and took care of everything.

RO: It was our agreement. Yeah we lived with it because we chose it. We chose to live on one salary, that's what we wanted.

ATP: Because we didn't want the kids to be raised by somebody else or in daycare.

RO: We just wanted to know that whatever morals they learned, right from wrong, they learned it from us. And if there was something they did we didn't like we unlearned them and taught them otherwise.

When did you realize your kids were growing up?

ATP: All along. I knew they were growing up because you could see it. They just didn't stay babies.

RO: And each one of them wanted to grow up faster than the other one. Because you have the second one doing whatever the first one does, even though he's four years younger, and you have the third one wanting to do everything the boys are doing, doesn't matter that she's still that much younger, so yeah, it's constant.

What do you think was the most difficult time in your relationship?

ATP: There wasn't that many. The most difficult times were when we bonded better.

RO: What people have to understand about difficult times is that they're made...if you try to do everything by yourself everything is 1000% times harder. If you talk to your partner and think of solutions and come to an agreement it's so much easier. Difficult times become not so difficult. But you have to be there for each other and if you're not there then someone in the family has to be there.

So having been together for so long -

How do you keep the spark alive?

ATP: I don't think we do anything special. We just have it. I don't know.

RO: We make sure we do things together though. We don't do many things separately. Like before we do something we ask each other "Do you want to do that?" When we're out we're together, we hold hands, we're hanging onto each other. We're physically keeping a connection and we talk to each other. I don't leave without saying I love you. He doesn't leave without saying I love you. You just make sure you do lots of nice things. He does lots of nice things for me and I try to do the same for him. (both laugh)

What's the best thing about been married three decades?

ATP: The offspring! I love having those kids. They're a pain in the ass, but yeah.

RO: That was the best thing.

ATP: And my honey hanging on, but you know we brought up three wonderful children as far as I'm concerned. They have good morals and they're still sort of friendly. Not like my family.

RO: Those are perfect words. It's been good to have someone there. It's a lot easier to wake up in the morning when you have someone beside you. It is.

ATP: Moaning and groaning.

RO: And complaining. It's just nice though you know? It's nice to be able to see him before work, to call to see what's going on, it's nice for him to call me. It's nice. It still feels good, still fun.

ATP: I'm not looking forward to giving it up anytime too soon.

What's the best piece of advice you'd give to couples thinking about getting married?

ATP: Don't do it.

RO: No! Be nice.

ATP: I can't really talk for anybody else. I really think there was only ever two couples that I could see were loving and loved each other up until the very end, so it's hard for me to give anyone advice. That's something they have to work out for themselves. I can't give advice about getting or not getting married. It could be good for them, it could be bad for them.

RO: I just think they have to be sure that they want to do it.

ATP: Yeah I don't think they should do it when they're young. Young people, if they start thinking about it, getting married and starting to have children its a big, big responsibility and it's not easy to take when you're young. After only a few years with your partner, well maybe. But you have to have a real good commitment to do that. It's a whole life-changing thing when you get married and have children. It's hours and hours of stress to begin with and when you're young and you've never had any experience at all. It's hard because a baby takes all all your time.

RO: There is no room to be selfish. That's one piece of advice. There's no room for yourself. You have to be prepared to give up a lot. You can't think about "Oh I want a new pair of shoes." You can't get mad if you don't get it. The family needs things. The kids need Christmas presents. Everything had a time and a place.

ATP: Mostly it's all for the kids.

RO: You have to not worry about yourself and worry about others. And you have to be ready not to give up. As soon as you think "Oh I don't want to do this anymore. I'm leaving." that's like such an easy and cowardly way out. If you really want to you just put it in your head that it's going to work out.

ATP: Yeah you just have to put it in your head...

RO: And find solutions to make it work. You tell yourself you're not going to get divorced and then your brain will find a solution. Because the solutions come to you if you know you have to find them.

ATP: We didn't want the option. We told each other we were going to spend at least 10 years together and then there was no way after that we were going to get a divorce. And after 10 years we had children and everything else...those first 10 years.

RO: Because people split up even after that. They have kids and all of a sudden you have one of those mid-life crisis everybody wants to have. Then next thing you know - Poof! But if you can live with each other than you know you can't have a mid-life crisis. (Both laugh)

Hahaha -

Well you said yourself thay there are couples who give up, statistics show it, so I want to thank you for sharing this story of love and joy. I also want to thank you both for speaking so openly about your relationship and I wish you a very happy anniversary. Here's to another 30 years at least.


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