“Our marriage was somewhat contrary to tradition. Most couples have the most intensity in the beginning. But I was always working. So we had the best and most romantic part of our marriage at the end. We literally held hands for the last 20 years.”
Bob Cousy, best known to basketball fans for leading the Boston Celtics to win six World Championships, reflects on his 63-year marriage to Marie “Missie” Ritterbusch, who passed away last month, in a heartbreaking interview with the UK’s Telegraph.
As Cousy mentions, the early years of the high school sweethearts’ marriage were often spent apart, as he traveled the country playing for the Celtics. Later, he worked long hours as a sports commentator and coach. Missie, meanwhile, raised their two daughters, became involved in the civil rights and peace movements, and is described by the Telegraph as “a Girl Scout leader and a gardener, a fiercely independent woman who could discuss politics with the same skill she applied to the faulty plumbing.” While Cousy says he should have spent more time with his family during those years, instead of “playing a child’s game,” he knew ”my girls were in the best possible loving hands.”
The last 20 years of their marriage, the romance between the aging couple “flourished,” even as Missie’s health declined. A little over 10 years ago, Missie began to suffer from dementia and Cousy made it his full time job to, as his daughter Marie put it, create “an environment that allowed her, in her mind, to be a fully functioning adult,” including doing all the household chores and allowing Missie to think she had done them. Cousy even planted artificial flowers in the garden, so his wife would believe she had tended to them.
“It drew us closer together,” he told the Telegraph of caring for his ailing wife. “It was never a chore, because I knew she would have done the same for me. You just have to go with the flow. Every three months, I’d scream out something just for release.”
Following his wife’s passing, Cousy is consoling himself with the knowledge that he gave Missie a happy life right up till the very end. Asked what he misses most about Missie, Cousy replied, “I can’t care for her anymore.” He still tells her he loves her every night before bed. [Telegraph UK]