How to keep the music playing
In 1959, Crown Prince Akihito of Japan broke tradition by marrying a commoner, Michiko Shoda. Both were tennis enthusiasts. Fidel Castro led a successful revolution against Gen. Fulgencio Batista and became prime minister of Cuba. Elizabeth Taylor married for the fourth time, and it would not be her last. Castro and Taylor are no longer around, while Emperor Akihito abdicated his position to son Naruhito in 2019, becoming the first to step down from the Chrysanthemum Throne in about 200 years.
In February 1959, Penny and I decided to make permanent a relationship that started six years earlier when I was a third class cadet at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Baguio City. In those days, there were no cell phones; in fact, use of regular phones by cadets was prohibited; also, there was no email. But the postal service between Baguio City and Quezon City was quite efficient and reliable, and kept the music playing. When we signed the documents making things official, we had no bank account to speak of, and at P330 a month, with flying pay — the pay of an Air Force first lieutenant — it was a hand-to-mouth existence. But we were happy, we were together, and we took care of each other.
In 1960, John F. Kennedy, at 43, was elected the youngest and first Catholic president of the United States. But for us, the most important event of 1960 was the birth of our first son, Miggy, now Dr. Miguel Farolan of Illinois, USA, husband to Leslie, and father to Christine and Nicole.
In 1961, a fellow called Barack Hussein Obama II was born to a Kenyan father and American mother. He would become the first African American president of the United States, and serve for two consecutive terms. But again, the most important event in our lives, that year was the arrival of another boy, “Pancho,” now lawyer Francisco Farolan, a confirmed bachelor who has taken us under his wing as his dependents for life.
In 1964, Beatlemania swept the world with songs like “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.” But what brought the sweetest music to our home was the birth of our baby girl Carmela, “Bon” to family and friends. A graduate of Northwestern University, she is mom to Gisele, and administrator of the Canadian American school in Makati City.
Through the years, they have given us three adorable granddaughters who bring much joy to our life by their mere presence. It has been said that the greatest gift to parents from the Almighty are the children. We have been truly blessed. During the last couple of years since marking our 50th anniversary in 2009, a lot of friends have asked us the perennial question: What is the formula for longevity in a marriage?
Well, first of all, what works for us does not necessarily work for others. One of the first things I learned at the PMA was how to fix my bed for inspection before starting the day. And I’ve been doing it for the last 50 to 60 years and more, although on some days, I get lazy. If you can do this regularly, it is one less chore for the wife. Actually, I have been working on a book “Fifty Ways To Keep The Music Playing.” It answers all the questions you always had in mind, but never got around to asking. It is not ready for publication but just to give you a preview: The first rule is to stay healthy. Very important. You may not be “rich as Rockefeller” but you’ve both got to stay healthy, not perfectly healthy, just reasonably healthy to enjoy each other’s company.
Keep in mind there are few saints in a marriage.
Think about this. How many saints were married, or were in some kind of relationship with another human being? Most if not all our saints were single individuals whose lives were completely dedicated to the church and the Almighty.
Marriage can best be described as the union of two imperfect human beings, at times brought together under less than perfect circumstances. But with their imperfections, they learn to adjust and to take care of each other in the physical as well as emotional sense.
Pope Francis put it this way: “It is not helpful to dream of an idyllic and perfect love… It is much healthier to be realistic about our limits, defects, and imperfections and to respond to the call to grow together, to bring love to maturity, and to strengthen the union come what may.” He also said, “Three words need to be used: ‘Please, Thank You, and Sorry.’ Three essential words. Let us not be stingy about using these words but keep repeating them, day after day.”
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