"I was griping to Laura just the other day about how we used to get more years out of our appliances,” Stan said. “Now you pay all this money, and they die faster. Think it’s the same for marriage? After 40 years, maybe we need a new warranty!” He looked first to his wife, Laura, then to me, with a sheepish grin.
Laura shifted her body toward me and returned his gaze with a stern eyeroll. “Ever the jokester,” she replied.
I’d last seen Stan and Laura eight years before and was struck by how instantaneously we slipped into a timeworn track. As they chronicled their current challenges—a relapse in their daughter’s addiction, the loss of their painstakingly crafted postretirement life because of financial stresses, and the challenge of having to care for grandchildren more than they’d expected—I sensed a familiar disconnect and pain.
“Per usual, Stan left out the real reason we decided to come in,” Laura finally announced. “I gave him an ultimatum to do something about his health or I’m out the door. He thinks he’s invincible and can ignore the doctor’s advice. I can’t be a party to it! He has type 1 diabetes, for God’s sake! It’s affecting his heart, his blood pressure, even his vision.” Laura—lithe and energetic at 73, and partial to yoga pants, oversized blouses, and bright jewelry—tossed out this comment with a fierce, no-nonsense edge to her voice.
Stan, 76, who’d gained more than 25 pounds in recent years, looked away. His hair had gone…