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Saturday, 9 August 2014


My parents-in-law, Joan and Frank Kiepiel (89 and 93), today celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary!  Joan (an English woman), met Frank (a Pole) during the Second World War when the latter escaped from a Siberian prisoner of war camp and somehow made it to England, where he joined the Polish squadron in the RAF.  They met in the Midlands and, at the time, didn't have any common language.  Despite the communication barrier and the fact that the two of them couldn't be more different human beings in every possible way, somehow they fell in love.  Frank learned some English, they got married and after the war migrated to South Africa.  There's a lot more to the story, but it does get one curious about how a relationship which had more than a few challenges could have been sustainable.  

After nearly 30 years as their son-in-law and having observed and spent time with them in all sorts of circumstances, I still don't fully understand it, but it does seem that the fundamentals at play can hold together any relationship.  Those seem to me to be:

  • A total, unconditional commitment to, respect for and adoration of each other
  • An unconditional commitment to and love for their children, grandchildren as well as their own and each other's extended families, however far away they may be and whatever they might have done with their lives
  • Support for each other through thick and thin
  • Total honesty with each other - speaking their truths and saying things just the way they are
  • Allowing each other space to do what they needed to do for themselves individually - honouring Frank's business travel, Joan's decoupage and gardening, Frank's golf and tinkering with cars in his later years, Joan's Royal Doulton and numerous other interests, and yet coming together seamlessly when moved to do so
  • Joan quietly and gently allowing Frank's Polish temperament to run its course when he was having a rant about something or other
  • An incredible care and generosity for each other and most other humans on the planet
  • A mostly unspoken, but obvious love for each other
  • Fierce loyalty towards each other
  • A complete acceptance of each other's different-ness with no demand that the other should change his or her ways, mannerisms, cultural make-up or anything else: accepting and loving each other just the way they are (which is not a bad approach to Life either!)
They are truly an inspiration to any couple, especially those who think that different-ness gets in the way of resilient relationships.

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