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Lost in Love and I Don't Know Much

A long marriage requires work and patience. Map-reading skills can't hurt.

By Amy McVay Abbott

We celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary recently. If there is a thread that runs through our relationship, we've been getting lost together since 1977, when we met. Our life together has been filled with joy and wonder and heartbreak and devastation. And no matter where we go, we get lost — every time. We are the two dumbest people in the world.

A married couple who is looking at a map while lost in the car. Next Avenue, marriage
"I might not recommend getting lost as a strategy for marriage success," but it does have its advantages.  |  Credit: Getty

I attended a college yearbook workshop at Athens, Ohio University. I met my fellow workshopper at our college's journalism building that Sunday morning. He was also to be my driver to the Ohio University workshop.

Our little detour through Indy added four hours to the trip. My bad.

He wore all white, his long, thick black hair jetting out from a white cap like Bob Denver wore in "Gilligan's Island." Dirty white sneakers, white jeans and a white shirt finished the ensemble. I was not impressed. The Brooks Brothers or Bobbie Brooks of the 1970s influenced neither of us. I wore jeans, a wrinkled shirt and a red bandana over my less-than-tidy hair. We were the freaks in the Eagles' song "The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks."

His car was a 1960s model black Caddy the size of Montana. He asked me if I knew how to get to Athens, Ohio.

I mumbled, "Go through Indianapolis."

I crawled into the comfortable red leather backseat and immediately fell asleep. Through Indianapolis we went, the Caddy rolling on the open road, heading southwest to go southeast. Our little detour through Indy added four hours to the trip. My bad.

I woke up to find our driver standing outside the car, looking across the Hocking River. We had ended up on a dirt-covered access road. Across the river was the campus of Ohio University, our destination.

So close and yet so far away.

Ten minutes later, we arrived at the campus; a yearbook friend I knew yelled out the window, wondering what had taken us so long.

I shouted back, "I never want to see this S.O.B. ever again," a lovely story about my triple X vocabulary that did not impress my betrothed family when someone told this story at our wedding rehearsal dinner. And this is the edited version.

Looking for America Together

Like the Simon and Garfunkel song, we married our fortunes together and spent the next four decades looking for America:

  • On the way to and from our honeymoon in Key West, we managed to get lost in Miami in our 1981 Chevette, landing at the same intersection twice. Or is there a Burger King at every intersection?
  • Shuttles are the only means of transportation on Cape Canaveral tours, with multiple buses headed to the highly secure launch pad. We boarded our bus for the return trip to the entrance and took the last two seats. An exceedingly pregnant woman and her partner boarded after us and dawdled in the front, lacking seats. The driver came on the squawk box, looked directly at us, and said, "Two of you have boarded the wrong bus. Please get off and board your correct shuttle." We looked around and at each other. Did we behave graciously and leave? Of course not. We sat like the pyramids of Giza, unmoved.
  • "Do not miss the cutoff for Bedford, or you'll end up on the Big Dig," my husband said to me repeatedly as we drove to the Boston area on a late 1990s visit to my aunt and family in our hideous white Ford Windstar mini-van that was identical to the Bunny Bread mobile. Of course, I missed the exit during Friday afternoon rush hour traffic and headed right into the heart of Big Dig construction. Being distracted by the construction noise was no issue for me as the driver, but the distraught screaming from my husband and child did bother me.

Lacking a Sense of Direction

When our son brought his partner home to meet us for the first time, my husband got lost coming out of the Indianapolis airport, missed the northern cutoff, and part of Interstate 70 was redirected out on the southeast side of town about halfway to Cincinnati. The drive from the airport to the northeast side of Indy took about two hours.

This poor woman, my son's girlfriend, had only met us on Zoom; our airport meeting was our first real introduction. What an impression we made on the new girlfriend as we screamed at other cars, at each other, circling roundabouts, many roundabouts, on the way.

We've been lost together in fifteen countries, about thirty states, and some of your finer cities.

Humans vary in their capabilities; neither my husband nor I have a good sense of direction, rather, any sense of direction. When we had an empty nest, we started traveling in Europe. We've been lost together in fifteen countries, about thirty states, and some of your finer cities: Toronto, New York, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Dublin and Milan. We've been lost in our little town. (Never volunteer to take home extra children at a Boy Scout meeting.)

We made the mistake of leaving our Bruges, Belgium tour to see Michaelangelo's Madonna, the one hidden from the Nazis and memorialized in "The Monuments Men." The sun was so bright that we couldn't see the maps on our phones (some people don't know enough to get out of the sun.) We accidentally found the group with minutes to spare before the bus left.

Getting lost does occasionally have its advantages. Looking for a pharmacia on a rainy Venice afternoon, we saw much more of the real Venice than our tour. We crossed the same bridges twice and had an incredible lunch in a place that didn't seat more than ten.

I might not recommend getting lost as a strategy for marriage success, but here's what I've learned. Couples face many problems and challenges. Dig in together and figure it out, sometimes with screaming, sometimes with crying, sometimes with laughter.

When we married, we were in our twenties and couldn't see farther than our next paychecks. There was no G.P.S. for marriage; we worked together and figured it out.

Contributor Amy Abbott
Amy McVay Abbott is a retired healthcare executive who writes about health and aging, caregiving, disability, and occasionally the arts and history. She formerly wrote “A Healthy Way,” syndicated by Senior Wire News Service. Read More
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