Marriage survives pain of dementia
A Plimmerton couple have celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary, despite one of them being diagnosed with senile dementia 18 years ago.
Austin and Margaret McClean gathered with friends and family last week to recall tales of their 60 years of marriage.
‘‘I don’t know where the time has gone. It’s incredible,’’ Mr McClean said.
Mrs McClean visited a doctor when she was 70 and was told she had the early signs of dementia.
‘‘She spends a lot of her time sleeping these days,’’ Mr McClean said.
He said the hardest part was that Mrs McClean could not answer him.
‘‘If I can get a smile off her it makes my day.’’
Mr McClean said help from their 11 children meant he could care for his wife at home.
He said Margaret was not in any pain, which made her illness easier to deal with.
The secret to their long marriage was not being home all the time and not arguing, Mr McClean said.
‘‘My brother told me, ‘ Whatever you do, don’t argue. She would always win anyway.’’’
He said the two met when he was singing in a show and she asked him to dance. ‘‘She was my dream girl.’’ Mr McClean, a retired fitter and turner who was born in Newcastle, England, travelled to New Zealand to work in the 1950s.
‘‘I never saw my parents again because I met Margaret and never left.
‘‘ I would go through it all again. I have had one of the best lives you could imagine.’’
The couple married at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Wellington on January 30, 1954.
In 1971 they moved from Newlands to Plimmerton, where they bought their family home.
‘‘I like the sea. I used to go to the sea once a year when I was kid,’’ Mr McClean said
He said 2005 was a difficult time in their marriage because their son, Michael, 41, died of a heart attack.
‘‘I did the grieving for her, because she didn’t know he had died.’’
Mr McClean said getting married these days was very different to the 1950s.
‘‘ We had two little chairs given to us as a wedding present and that was all.
‘‘ I didn’t have a car until about 10 years after that.’’
He said engaged couples should have to do a marriage course before getting married.
‘‘There is all this lovey-dovey stuff, but let’s be honest, it doesn’t last.
‘‘The number of breakups is phenomenal and the children are the ones who suffer.’’
The couple had 41 grandchildren and 8 greatgrandchildren.
Mr McClean said he was the longest- serving member of Alzheimers New Zealand’s Porirua branch.
Now: The McCleans celebrate 60 years of marriage.