A Man’s View – Marriage Intercepted by Disability
This next couple that I am interviewing for this series is a couple that have been married for over 56 years. They have seen it all and remained in love in a way that sets precedent for younger couples. My husband and I have looked up to them since meeting them a few years ago and in getting to know them we have become the very dearest of friends.
Sitting in Crete and John’s living room, I glance around at all the memories their life together has created. Pictures of grandchildren and great-grandchildren hang from their mantle and artwork done by their four children fill the walls. Beloved memories of their daughter Rosey, who transitioned into Heaven because of cancer, lay about like little teardrops of endearing love. What impresses me the most though is the napkin holder that proudly declares “John and Crete” and the little old man and old lady dolls sitting together on a miniature bench in the living room. This seems to sum up what I am trying to capture. The way the house is laid out perfectly for accommodating Crete and her hand walker seems to express their love for one another more than their home and life they have built together.
Crete slowly became disabled over the course of a few years and starting 12 years ago she began using her walker full-time. The doctors informed her she would be in a wheelchair before long but due to her persistence, willpower, assistance from John, and of course God’s grace, Crete is still standing vertical for up to two or three minutes at a time. Any longer than that and if you watch closely you will see the teardrops forming in the corner of her eyes due to pain.
Crete and John met in church when they were just children. I believe their first encounter involved John tossing a stick of gum across the aisle to her (causing her to be reprimanded later by her mother). He had his eyes on her ever since that day and persistently sought her heart until the day she committed.
No matter their circumstances, their love for each other as stated above sets precedent and provides wisdom for couples everywhere. I have seen many couples married for that long but to see them genuinely still in “like” is as rare as Crete’s name. In fact, after so many years together they finish each other’s sentences and complete one another in such a way that I cannot approach this topic with the input of only John! Crete seems to understand John’s heart and is able to capture his words and essence in a way that only a one flesh marriage can reflect. So this interview will include both of their answers.
I hope as you read this love story and glean nuggets of wisdom, gems of reassurance (wherever you are in your romantic journey), and karats of courage to press on in marriage to achieve the standard of Christ-like love that was intended and is displayed here.
How has your love changed as you transitioned from being married to a woman without a disability to being married to one with a disability?
John – My love has grown stronger, it ever changed. God has helped us through many things and our love for each other has made us stronger and God has blessed us more.
Crete – My love has grown deeper because I now become overwhelmed at all the things needing to be done to help me. Sometimes I am so amazed at “my man’s” commitment and thank God daily for him and know God is pleased at his desire to help me.
Do you ever feel frustrated with having to be in the role of caretaker? Explain…
John – If you love someone you want to take care of her. I was away from home as a truck driver [when we were younger] and my wife was able to do everything by herself as the children were growing up. Now that she has so much pain I see no reason why I can’t do many of the things she did – I love her and enjoy “cooking”. There’s nothing wrong with her mouth and mind! She can tell me how to do things and I usually can follow directions!
Crete – I often feel frustrated because “my man” steps in and does more and more as I do less and less.
After being married for 56 years do you feel being an abled woman vs being a disabled one affects the core of a relationship?
John – Yes, the core of your relationship becomes stronger after living and loving someone that long. God helps you through the changes. Being married for over 50 years I have seen her as a wife, mother, nurse, and grandmother and watched her with her active life. Now it’s [the disability] putting a halt to everything she does and she has to minimize her pain by limiting her activities. She can no longer stand for more than five minutes or walk across a room without pain. In spite of her disability she will try to “push” the limits and ends up in tears because the pain is overwhelming. Our love has only grown stronger and knowing I can do more so her pain is less makes me want to do it. Even with the sickness and death of a daughter our spirit felt broken but our love helped each other to go on. Her disability did not hinder her from reaching out to others during that difficult time.
Crete – My marriage is effective when in my most painful times and my spirit is low he will be there with a kiss, a touch, or a prayer!
Men are created to build and fix things. As a man how do you deal with and handle being unable to “fix” your wife’s disability?
John – I am not a doctor but when I see her in such pain I want to give her a new back. Since that is not possible I am more than ready to put the walker in and out of the car or be available with the wheelchair when needed. She and I both know we cannot afford surgery but have the assurance that one day she will have a new body in Heaven. Until then, we will work and love together here on earth…disabilities and all!
Do you get bored with not being able to do more physical activities (i.e. hiking, dancing, walking far, etc.) together?
John – I know she can’t walk. Sometimes I will go someplace by myself or walking with my dog.
Crete – I get bored at not being able to do simple things like stand to cook or be able to walk or stand for five minutes. I feel at times I wish he would take a walk or do something he could enjoy with a friend like golfing or hiking. I often feel I hold people back and frequently will try to get him to go without me.
Does attraction change with physical deformities?
John – I love her no matter what she is going through. Look at her other traits. She is friendly, helping others, kind, always smiling, sharing with others.
Crete – Attraction? Emotionally it is stronger. Physically it is regulated by pain.
How do you feel society and “model bodies” create an unhealthy standard of what love/physical attraction really is?
John – So many in societies today when something happens to the other person they don’t stick with them, they get rid of them, and they trade them “for a new model”.
Crete- Society just needs to stand aside and observe the “model” we want to portray.
What would you say to a young disabled and single girl who may feel love will not ever find her?
John – God loves you. Keep trusting Him. Be yourself. God has someone for you. Don’t listen to what other people are saying [but rather] find a church you can connect with.
Crete – I began praying at age 12 for a loving, caring husband. I saw true love between my in-laws and decided at the beginning I would make it work. As my disability progressed I thanked God that our marriage vows took on a new meaning and witnessed anew every day the work it takes on both parts to commit.
How would you define romance? Do you feel it is still possible being married to a woman with a disability?
John – Romance comes from the heart and yes you can be [romantically] married to a woman with a disability it is not all sexual.
Crete – The little things mean a lot – a wink from across the room, a note, a smile, or touch. Things that don’t cost money.
Are you ever ashamed in public when people stare at your spouse in a bad way because of her disability?
John – When we park in a handicap spot [and] she gets out of the car they don’t see the pain in her body. They don’t see the whole picture or the love we have for each other.
Crete – There are times when the “public” looks at me and they can’t see anything wrong with me but my pain level is already at a 10. I must then find a way to sit and try to “kill them with kindness” and smile.
Are there times when your wife seems to emotionally disconnect and isolate from you for whatever reason (low confidence, pain, etc.)? How do you help her to reconnect to you?
John – When she has pain and she doesn’t feel good she will go lay down until the pain lets up. [She] tries to keep on in spite of the pain and it always ends up with her pain level becoming overwhelming (and tears flowing). I can only hug her and insist on her stopping the activity and try to help her more.
Crete – It is important to “keep on keeping on”. I was told ten years ago I would be in a wheelchair in five years. I try to be an inspiration to others [because] it takes the focus off of me. I remember God has my life planned ahead.
Do you ever feel that your spouse loves and appreciates you more because of her disability and all you do for her?
John – I know she does but feels embarrassed when others come into the room and she is sitting while I am doing things she [feels she] should be doing. She will get up and try to “pitch in” and I continually have to tell her that I will do it. I do know I must be aware that she wants to be mobile and that if she stops then after awhile she may not be able to walk at all. [Crete’s continuity in movement helps her stay mobile and out of a wheelchair permanently.] I once wanted to get something for her and when I saw her start to get up I asked, “What do you need, dear?” She said, “I have to use the restroom – you can’t do THAT for me!”
Crete – Yes, I try to be more appreciative in all he does and often do become embarrassed when others are around and see how much he does while I am sitting. I try to openly be thankful.
Is there any particular scripture or time that God has spoken to you throughout your relationship and helped to guide you into the married couple you are now?
John – Ephesians 5:25: Husbands Love your wife just as Christ loved the church. I saw love modeled by my dad to my mom when I was growing up. He did a lot for mom, they worked together. I put God first and look to Him to help me – through the good and the bad.
Crete – I am blessed and grateful! Blessed for “my man” and grateful for all he does daily. My limitations are not weaknesses but it is [in] the decision [to be blessed and grateful] that requires maturity and strength.
*If you have questions of your own for John or Crete please comment below and they will be happy to answer them!
**If you have your own answer to one of the questions above also comment that below!
***Keep in tune with Crutchprints.com because in the near future I will be posting one last article keeping with this theme titled “A Man’s View – Temporary Disabilities”.