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Lucky marriage 'prospectors' will make the Fortune 500

October 31, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

Marriage is like prospecting.

That doesn't sound very profound, but think about it.

Young couples are just like the 49ers of the Old West who panned for fortunes. Both start with nothing. Both are faced with hard work and the disappointment of failure and the joy of success that go with it.

But with perseverance, commitment and a love for their particular endeavor, there's a chance of striking it rich.

Few prospectors ever made it to the Fortune 500. But on the marriage front, there are times you have to believe, "There's gold in them thar thrills."

Now, I'm a virtual rookie on the marriage circle. It took me many years to find my wife JoAnn, and we will soon be celebrating our second anniversary. But, over the last four or five years, I have been learning the art of panning for a lifetime together from two solid role models - my in-laws, Don and Sarah Robinson.

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The Robinsons, you see, will be celebrating their 50th anniversary this week. In fact, it is almost ironic that they decided to follow through on one of the scariest commitments a man and a woman can make together on Halloween in 1953.

From a distance, as I dated their daughter, I would secretly watch Don and Sarah. I'd watch their interactions and the way they watch out for each other. I'd look for tips on how to be more patient and rock steady in tough situations and more joyous and appreciative of the great ones.

They handle it all with a style of their own.

They are the roots that keep their family tree consisting of five children, eight grandchildren and a step grandchild stable and positive. Every one of them, even an interloper like me, is always welcomed in their house and embraced in that family fiber that keeps the elements of the world's mass hysteria rolling off like a raincoat.

I know the Robinsons aren't the first couple ever to reach a milestone anniversary. Every Saturday in this paper is a photo collection of all the area's resilient couples who have stuck with it for the long haul of 25 years, 50 years or more.

And you can't help but think that this group is an endangered species that will go the way of unicorns. Nowadays, too many couples seem prone to throw it all away - with exceptions - or stray rather than working together while keeping an eye on the prize of a future together. A 50-percent divorce rate can attest to that.

In my case, the Robinsons are the first couple I personally know to reach this honored level of couple-dom. I hoped my parents would have made it, but my father passed away before they would have had their chance two years from now.

That in itself proves that so many things - including luck and commitment, health and mortality - make a 50th anniversary not an everyday occurrence.

My observations of the Robinsons have influenced me and reinforced ideas I hope to carry forward.

It's heartwarming to watch people like the Robinsons hold hands when they walk together. It's cute the way they flirt when they sit across from each other at the dining room table. And it's mystifying how they both have this endless spring of love for each other in their hearts.

But most of all, each is the most important person in the other's life. They share everything and hide nothing. The time of their lives have been the times of their lives. In fact, the other day Sarah told Don, "The first 50 years were so good, I'm ready to be with you for the next 50."

They accomplished it all through lean years that forced creative ways to raise their family, factors that have divided lesser couples. And now, they have the opportunity to watch the successful fruits of their labor of love as their families have their own families.

This is overwhelming to me, though. Three days after Don and Sarah celebrate for the 50th time, I will be hitting that second year with JoAnn.

That means we are 4 percent along the road the Robinsons have traveled.

I only hope I've learned my lessons well and have the time remaining to do the same.

To me, the Robinsons have proved you don't need everything to have it all. You don't need money and possessions if you have love, family, God - and most of all - each other.

For that, they have lived the life of Midas.

Everything Don and Sarah have touched has turned to gold ... 50 times over.

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