Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
Statistics suggest they don’t go together like a horse and carriage, and that’s a problem
By Jeff Woodburn
February is a perfect time to think about love and marriage. In my case, I had a nudge from New Hampshire Magazine’s Editor Rick Broussard, who asked me to profile the state’s longest married couple -- Richmond and Geraldine Trainor of Bethlehem -- who will celebrate their 74th anniversary this June.
I’ve never written about marriage, so I did a quick internet search to bone up. Marriage, I learned is in trouble, not because gays want it, but because poor people don’t. The Pew Research Center reported not only a sharp decline in marriage – from 75 to 51 percent in 50 years, but it is also becoming an exclusive arrangement for better off and better educated people.
In the 1970s there was little difference in marriage rates between rich and poor, but since then the gap has widened to 14 percent. More troublesome, 41 percent of all babies are born to unwed mothers and many grow up in nearly permanent dysfunctional homes – led by single mothers with occasional live-in partners, and riddled with poverty and failure. A marriage certificate alone is not a ticket to success, but like home ownership, statistics prove that it is a sign of stability and commitment.
As any teacher will tell you these so-called socio-economic problems are at the core of what’s holding down our educational system. With such modeling is there any surprise? Why have poor people fallen so far so fast? Is it cultural acceptance of bad behavior, a welfare system that encourages dependency and poor choices, or the loss of hope that they can climb out of this economic stranglehold?
These statistics offend my egalitarian sensibilities. Middle- and lower-class families were once the backbone of American society and part of the notion of upward-mobility that fueled the ambitions of generations of Americans – people like the Trainors.
Richmond Patrick Trainor dropped out of high school and went to work to put food on his widowed-mother’s table.
“I know what’s like to stand in flour line,” he said of the Great Depression years, but that hardly held him back. He went to work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and taught himself electrical engineering and passed the professional entrance exam and eventually retired as a supervisor.
The Trainors marriage is equally inspiring. They endured things that all couples face – arguments and heartache, but also the Great Depression, World War II and now creeping old age (both are in their mid-90s). The hardest part for Geraldine was the loneliness of being a war bride. She was left with their newborn son when Richmond enlisted in Army.
It’s easy to be in awe of the length of the Trainor’s marriage – it has outlasted all others in New England and all but a dozen or so in the country – but it is their love for each other that stands out. Their word-less glances and easy smiles communicate an unspoken connection that seem to keep their nonagenarian bodies relatively healthy and minds sharp as ever.
They married in a day when marriage was nearly universal and permanent. “When we got married, it was for life,” Richmond said, but his wife interrupted with a technical correction, “forever.”
Jeff Woodburn, of Dalton, is a writer, teacher and Executive Director of the Council for Children and Adolescents with Chronic Health Conditions. He can be reached at jeff@WhiteMtNews.com.
Last updated by Parenting NH Administrator Feb 6, 2012.