Saturday, March 24, 2007

Maybe she played hard to get because she was afraid of intimacy (because of her time in foster care)

Couple now face challenges together
Moss, Dale. Louisville Courier-Journal, March 18, 2007, pg. B1.

He would ask, she would resist. Off and on, for years that became decades, Tom Nash chased the charms of Mary Richards.She cannot explain why she played harder-than-hard to get, only that she forever will regret it. Before he gave up, blessedly, she gave in. They acknowledged their hearts, confronted their loneliness. Last October, in a packed Park Christian Church, the couple exchanged vows.

"Love is possible for everyone," said the Rev. David Brown, who officiated. "They exemplify that."

They have mental disabilities. They are reminded routinely of what they cannot do. Not that they feel sorry for themselves or expect us to feel sorry for them. Though heartwarmingly determined, they still rely on Social Security, on subsidized housing, on rides and on pills galore, like now they rely on each other.

They chose marriage, nonetheless, and thankfully, they get to choose. Their minds were the only ones that had to be made up. "And so far," Gloria Nash said, "it's looking good."

She is the 47-year-old Nash's 78-year-old mother. Her husband, Wilbur Nash, is likewise 78 and likewise thrilled and relieved to see Tom so loved and supported. No one knows better the challenges Tom Nash poses, as well as faces. Along with his mild retardation, he is epileptic and his vision is failing. Plus he had succumbed to the sloppiness of bachelorhood.

"I'm not a good cook or good housekeeper," Tom Nash said. "I needed somebody to turn me around."

His parents had worried, obviously, who would be there for their son when they no longer would. So daughter-in-law doubles as godsend. Mary Nash must care for her new husband almost as much as about him. He suffers seizures - quick but scary. Yet she does not panic. "And I will never panic," she said.

He grew up in New Albany, in a nurturing home, a pity-free zone. Her upbringing in Aurora was troubled and sad. By 12 she was a group-home resident. "I would not want to go back to my childhood days," she said.

They met in Corydon, at a place of employment for the disabled called a sheltered workshop. He said he remembers it like yesterday, she catching his fancy and a friend urging him to make the first move, and the second, and ... . Nashes are not quitters, he explains.

"He'd bug me every day," Mary Nash said. "I'd say 'no. I'm not interested in men.'

"I was stubborn."

They lost touch, were reunited, again apart, again together. Each went on dates, each led lives apparently unfulfilling.

She enrolled last year in a GED preparation class at Park Christian, the Nash family's church. Though a high school graduate he signed up, too, coincidentally, for a brush up. Call it fate, or something. "The good Man above," Tom Nash said.

This time, right off, she gave him her phone number. He called before she even returned home. They set up a picnic alongside the Ohio River and, seemingly in whirlwind time, agreed on marriage.

"They just discovered the other person that makes their life work," said Brown, plugged in early to the nuptials plan.

Could it last? Was it necessary? Their resolve was tested. At least slow down, suggested those closest to the couple. Mary Nash said like a million people wondered if she truly was ready. "I said, 'Just butt out,'" Tom Nash said he told those leery about the courtship's pace.

They were overdue for happiness, defined their way. Sandy Bishop, Mary Nash's case manager for New Hope Services, quickly came to realize Mary and Tom belong together. "After it all came together, I could see how they were," Bishop said. "It's been good for them, really good."

Tom Nash's parents accompanied them on a wonderful, belated honeymoon to Disney World and the beach in Florida. Then it was back to adapting to the changes marriage invariably requires, plus at least one. To satisfy the gods of bureaucracy, each was no longer eligible for food stamps.

They live in a secluded apartment in Jeffersonville, near his workshop employment at New Hope and not especially far from her job with Papa John's. Still a string bean, he's gained 11 pounds on her cooking and on the surplus pizza she brings home.

"More goods than bads," she said, asked for the status.

Gloria Nash, a wife for 55 years, tells them they will be lucky to get it right. Any couple is. Then again, luck already seems finally on their side. "She (Mary) said it was her first wedding, and only wedding," Tom Nash said.


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