I don’t need hair. That’s my big takeaway from spending a morning with wise and wonderful Fernald recently. It’s not what I wear, or having a scalp as arid and vegetation-free as Death Valley. It’s being kind and having love in my heart that counts. That’s what he said, emphatically, while jabbing his finger my direction, so who am I to argue?
Fernald is an amazing guy. He’s almost 93, and traveled with 11 other veterans to Washington, D.C., on our most recent Journey of Heroes trip to see the monuments created in their honor. Back when building a World War II memorial was still a dream in President Bill Clinton’s eye, Fernald started contributing personally to the project, and still keeps all those canceled checks and thank you letters from Sen. Bob Dole in a thick binder on his assisted living bookshelf.
He’s seen it all, and is another one of those irrepressibly positive seniors who has experienced unimaginable pain and loss, who cries and laughs in equal portions, and is grateful for everything life has sent his way. One of my favorite moments on the trip was when we asked if he was cold and needed to put on his coat. “Cold?” he replied. “I was in the Battle of the Bulge. This isn’t cold.”
With Valentine’s Day approaching, Fernald seemed like the perfect person to ask for advice about love. Having apparently learned little about this topic in my own life, and badly in need of remedial training, I was eager to glean any nuggets he was willing to share, and he didn’t disappoint.
The conversation included his almost disastrous first-date fishing trip with his beloved wife, memories of their first kiss, and some extremely vigorous views about online dating. You can see the highlights here or here, and trust me, you’ll want to.
Then we got to the big questions. What’s the secret to a long-lasting relationship? “You’ve got to be kind to each other,” Fernald said.
And what is love? “It’s not complicated,” he replied. “Love is love.” Like any good Zen master nugget, it’s a little cryptic. But I know he’s right.
Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.