Jim Fardink and Norman Newhouse have a few things in common. They've both been married for nearly 60 years, they served their nation in the military and health problems led them to Lutheran Home and Rehab Center.
Jim was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis several years ago. He fell up the stairs of his Ashville home one day, and his ankle swelled up, developing a sore.
"They did a test on his legs," Jim's wife, Jan, said, "and they tried to do a bypass to save his right leg, but his arteries were like cement. There was nothing the could do."
Norman and Marion Newhouse pose for a photo inside Lutheran Home and Rehab Center. The couple has been married for 59 years. The Newhouses enjoy looking back at what they’ve done in life.
P-J photos by Scott Shelters
Doctors removed both of Jim's legs in order to save his life.
Norman was stricken with diabetes, and a year and a half ago, doctors removed one of his legs.
The men have lived away from their wives for two years, but through their trials, their marriages have lasted. By working together and keeping in mind what's important, the Fardinks, Newhouses and others think relationships in danger of failure can easily survive.
STAYING TOGETHER THROUGH IT ALL
Jan Fardink drives from Ashville to visit her husband every day she can, occasionally taking a break due to weather. Jan and Jim spend about five hours together during each visit and watch sports or just visit with one another.
"He's not much for going and playing bingo, and neither am I," Jan said. "We just talk to each other."
Jan plans to get an apartment on the LSS campus soon in hopes of saving time and money. Most importantly, she just wants to be closer to her husband of 57 years. The couple lived in Ashville for most of their married life, excluding the years Jim spent in the Air Force, when they lived in New Mexico and Texas. They had two children together and have gone through more than just leg amputations.
After Jim was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis, doctors discovered Jan had a 40-pound tumor - big enough to fill a small wastebasket. A few months later, her colon ruptured, resulting in eight surgeries. The couple drove back and forth to Erie almost every day.
After doctors informed Jim they would have to remove his second leg, Jan assured him that her love for him wouldn't change.
"I told him we would still have a life together," she said, "and that's all that's important to me. He took good care of me for 50 some years, and he's still taking good care of me. It is so great how he's handling it. It just amazes me. He's always had a weird sense of humor."
When Jim's daughter-in-law, who frequently visits him, asked what he wanted for Christmas, Jim told her he'd like a new pair of boots.
LOOKING BACK AT THE GOOD TIMES
Marion Newhouse comes to visit Norman from her Jamestown home five days a week. They talk about their past or enjoy meals together.
The Newhouses had motorcycles, boats and more. They traveled up and down the east coast and enjoyed camping.
"We sit and hold hands and reminisce," Marion said. "We're glad because now we can't do those things anymore, but we've got a lot of memories. He can't get up and walk around, so we spend a lot of time together."
Looking at the past has become entertaining for the couple, but the present situation isn't always easy.
"Sometimes you think it's a hard thing," Norman said, "but you have to go along with the flow of it."
"I can't take care of him at home," Marion added. "Our home isn't built for a leg amputee, so we do what we can. We make the best of it."
The couple married 59 years ago and has three daughters. Norman's brother married Marion's roommate. He met Marion at that wedding, and they've been together ever since.
SURVIVING EVERYDAY STRUGGLES
Not everyone goes through the struggles of the Fardinks or the Newhouses. Yet, divorces happen regularly for reasons that seem far more trivial.
Brenda J. Hayes, Ph.D., a personal coach in Fredonia, offered several tips on how to keep a marriage going.
A positive mindset is the first key, according to Hayes.
"The thoughts that we allow to run through our minds have a lot to do with how we handle situations," she said, "so it's really important to have people believe that they can make it through a particular situation."
Thinking of past successes in dealing with struggles can give one the motivation to make it through present obstacles, including those presented by marriage, Hayes said.
Secondly, she suggested that couples try to get away from daily stresses by taking overnight trips or getting out of town together.
"If they can get away from the day-to-day stresses that they're experiencing and just take time together, that's often very rejuvenating," Hayes said. "I find that couples really ignore their relationships. I've often said we take better care of our cars than we do our relationships."
Hayes asks couples to understand that different people deal with stress in different ways. Some like to keep to themselves, while others like to vent their frustrations. Both responses are acceptable, she said.
Finally, Hayes encourages couples to stay connected through touch.
"You don't need to talk about things sometimes," she said. "Sometimes, if you sit and watch the news together, and you hold hands or you walk down the street with your arms around each other, or you reach out and pat your partner's arm in some kind of gesture of connection, those kinds of physical touch are very comforting. For some people, they make you feel like you're connected even if you're experiencing a lot of stress."
'WE JUST GOT THROUGH IT'
When the troubles start for couples today, Jim and Jan Fardink think it's a little easier to call it quits than when they married 57 years back. Jan was 17 and Jim was 19 on their wedding day. At that time, some said their marriage wouldn't last five years.
"There were times when we had money problems, but we just got through it," Jan said. "It's been a long five years."
With their 60th anniversary coming later this year, the Newhouses said they consider their marriage to be more successful than most. For Norman, 60 years seemed like an eternity looking ahead at them. However, when looking back, he said his marriage felt like a moment in time.
"It's been a good 60 years ... a fun 60 years," Marion added. "Not too many people can say that."