Georgia and Richard are heading for their San Francisco condo for a three-day stay. Then they scamper off to Maui, for a two-week condo vacation. No, these are not newlyweds, they've been married for more than 50 years. When I asked what their plans were in Hawaii, Georgia said, "We just want to relax, maybe go whale watching, just keep busy taking it easy."
Richard, a long time Smith Valley rancher, reminds me of Gary Cooper, but with a twinkle in his eye. He likes to give Georgia plenty of rope, and then when she gets a little too frisky, he reels her in. Richard has always been the boss in their family, because Georgia wants it that way.
Georgia is complicated. With her carefully coifed, silver gray hair, she will toss a scarf around her neck, and look positively Parisian. Georgia is vivacity itself. She sparkles. Reared on the fringes of society in San Francisco, she had to make quite an adjustment when she joined Richard here in rural Smith Valley. She opted to keep one foot in Smith Valley and the other in the Bay Area where she can attend symphonies, go to the theater, and stay connected with life long friends.
It wasn't until Richard was in his middle years that their ranching ventures began to pay off. They made some courageous business decisions, and now own prime alfalfa acreage and several cattle- filled ranches. During their family raising years, they spawned four wonderful kids and each has become a leader in their field. Now, a new hurdle has presented itself. Richard has developed a health condition that could become debilitating. What to do? Kowtow to the situation or fill each day with as much happiness as they possibly can? They chose the latter. A year ago, Georgia masterminded a family vacation to Egypt, Syria and Petra, the fabled city in Jordan. By planning carefully, Richard had plenty of downtime. If a tour guide got too long-winded, one of the family brought out a fold-out stool so that Richard could take a break. Hotel stopovers were also strategically planned. Camel rides, donkey rides and excursions were arranged and everyone had a fabulous time. Georgia and Richard hosted a marvelous family vacation in gloriously exotic settings
The other evening, this fabled couple, who happen to be good friends, were having dinner at our house, and Georgia remarked, "50 percent of the people think I'm a real "meany" for keeping us so busy. Well, I'm not going to just let Richard sit on a shelf if I can help it." Devotion shows itself in many different ways.
Moments ago, I called Georgia to check on some facts for another trip she is planning. This time she will fly, on her own, to Washington, D.C. and visit her daughter. From there, it's off to Switzerland to check up on old friends. From there she hooks up with her fabric designer daughter, who is attending a convention in Lake Como, Italy. Three days later she will rendezvous with her granddaughter in Venice, where they will stay in a charming bed and breakfast on one of the back canals. All flights, hotel rooms, and visas are already in place. Richard will remain here in Smith Valley, well looked after by his son and daughter.
Long term relationships are complicated. Richard and Georgia's is built on independence, not dependency. The space that Richard and Georgia allow each other is what makes them strong. Their lives are full because they're optimistic and look for the goodness in life. They have a large extended family and are totally committed to each other. They've come up with a pretty good formula for a long and happy life. Their life is full and happy, and by golly, I'm going to do my best to learn from these two.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.