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In sickness and in health
February 1, 2012 1:12 PM   Subscribe

A story about a marriage challenged by sudden tragedy with an unconventional ending

Page and Robert Melton were married with two young children when he suffered traumatic brain injury at 46. Although he recovered, Robert was left with severe mentally impairment that required living in an assisted-living facility. Page Melton resigned herself to a life of caring for their two children alone until she reconnected a childhood friend. What happens next is a story that addresses disability, marriage, and what it means to be a family.

Washington Post Q&A with Page
NPR interview with Page
posted by mlo (24 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Crying at my desk!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:22 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Was a well written and very touching story. Don't read the comments section, it gets ugly.

(I thought it was posted here before, but I read it dead-print)
posted by k5.user at 1:28 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am so glad none of the newspapers I've ever worked for developed an active commentariat. It seems like news comments go to hell faster and more reliably than any other kind of site save Youtube.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:34 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Holy mackeral, what a story. Thanks for posting this.
posted by jquinby at 1:35 PM on February 1, 2012



That is lovely. I sure hope that's what my life looks like, heaven forbid anything happen to either Husbunny or I.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:38 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


When the Marriage Nazis claim that 'Gay Marriage will lead to Polygamy', I say FINE. While the family structures of the Old Mormons did more harm than good (by which I means they weren't ALL bad), there are clearly situations like this one where being married to one person at a time is NOT THE BEST THING. Who knows, it may even have made Newt Gingrich less of an asshole... nah.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:49 PM on February 1, 2012


Allan is truly someone to look up to.
posted by Phire at 1:51 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


With my dad institutionalized in a memory care facility, I've long been comfortable with the idea that my mother could find someone else. I don't think she is, though, quite.

There was a somewhat similar "arrangement" with a couple here in town; the wife was the ill person, and the husband had a fairly public relationship with another woman. They started a great restaurant together, but eventually they broke up and it closed. Never knew whether it was about the institutionalized wife in any substantive sense, though, even if you can't imagine it wasn't a factor.
posted by dhartung at 1:54 PM on February 1, 2012


Finally, after a half-hour, the volunteer rescue squad showed up.... But Robert had been down for about 45 minutes.

Is that normal? Or acceptable?
posted by melissam at 1:56 PM on February 1, 2012


melissam, Melton suffered his stroke while Richmond was dealing with the aftermath of a major hurricane, which included a citywide loss of electrical power. Of course that kind of delay isn't normal, but during a natural disaster things like this can happen.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:06 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is that normal? Or acceptable?

I think because it was right after the hurricane. Crazy circumstances.
posted by resurrexit at 2:07 PM on February 1, 2012


I agree with onefellswoop - it seemed terribly sad that she would have to divorce her first husband in order to marry the second. I used to have the instinctive reaction of 'Aagh, poly marriages, probably a logistical and legal nightmare, maybe that isn't a workable political goal'. And then I got older, and saw a little more of the world, and realised all sorts of everyday, ordinary people needed poly marriages in order to make their lives work.

I also want a formal, legal status that's not marriage but some sort of 'civil kinship', so that I can have some kind of recognition of the relationship between me and the friends I've been living with for six years; for all practical purposes they are my family, and there are specific scenarios for which I would really like them to be on record as my next of kin. Our current concepts of legal kinship are ridiculously narrow.
posted by Acheman at 2:12 PM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


What awesome people, and lucky kids.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:20 PM on February 1, 2012


Just reread my comment and realised it could be construed to mean that people living a classically poly lifestyle, unlike this couple, weren't among those ordinary, everyday people. I don't think that at all - what I meant was that I had thought of poly marriage as a matter of principle, the kind of radical restructuring of social norms that might be desireable but wasn't terribly practical. Then I realised the extent to which it really is an urgent concern for all sorts of boringly pragmatic reasons, to the point where it isn't reasonable to locate it in some utopian scifi future.
posted by Acheman at 2:23 PM on February 1, 2012


Don't read the comments section, it gets ugly.

That's a blanket statement you can apply to the entire WaPo. It makes YouTube look polite.
posted by phearlez at 2:41 PM on February 1, 2012


This made me cry at my desk, too (though I'm working from home today, so that just meant that the cats continued to ignore me). It's such an awful and sad situation that is still somehow happy, and so very human in its uncertainties.
posted by rtha at 2:52 PM on February 1, 2012


My aunt is in the same situation. Except our family out there is extremely conservative, so she just has a "good friend" that helps out around the house a lot and hires her husband to do odd jobs for his landscaping business.

Either way, I've always really admired both the new guy for being so willing to take my 10-year-old-equivalent uncle under his wing all day every day, and my aunt for staying committed to caring for him long after it was clear a real relationship was no longer a possibility.

There's lots of gray areas in a lifelong commitment.
posted by chundo at 3:11 PM on February 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


What a story of love. People can be extraordinarily wonderful.
posted by bearwife at 4:05 PM on February 1, 2012


Well, they do have a civil kinship--Page remains the legal caretaker of her former husband, even though his brother acting as guardian ad litem during the divorce. Family law is cumbersome, burdensome and the courts are simply ill-suited to managing the complexities of familial relationships. But there are structures which create civil kinship.

This was a very moving story about people worth emulating. Life is so hard and we so rarely hear about the people who navigate it with grace, charity and empathy.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:21 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am very grateful to the compassionate minister in this story. Actually, all of the compassionate people in this story. This is beautiful.
posted by kamikazegopher at 4:27 PM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm against poly marriage, but this situation is what families are all about. The fact that Page and her now husband were willing to accept and care for Robert speaks greatly to their strength and humanity. This is where society needs to accept that sometimes families aren't made with cookie cutters.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:28 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


This story has been on my mind most of the day. Thinking about traditional wedding vows, I noticed that most of them state things like, "in sickness, in health, til death do us part" or something to that variant. And I was struck by how much Page has truly stuck to her vows. That, if her vows were something like the traditional, she didn't promise to love and support him until the dissolution of their marriage but she promised to love him and support him 'til death parts them. (This is assuming traditional-type vows)

What a noble noble thing. And what awe I have for her for taking those vows so seriously. What a great example all those involved are.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:29 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was okay and not crying until I got to where Allen said as part of his vows to Page, “And I promise to always help you provide compassionate care for Robert.” Only then did I blubber. Wow, that is just awesome. What a great family.
posted by SuzySmith at 4:51 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


She agreed to be his wife until death in her vows. She broke that vow. I read through the article, looking for the moment when she broke the vow so I could pronounce her a bad person.

Instead I was blubbering at the same point of the article as SuzySmith. What a beautiful story.
posted by Doohickie at 10:31 AM on February 2, 2012


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