I read a fascinating profile of a unique familial arrangement in the Washington Post this weekend. It told the story of Page and Robert Melton of Richmond, VA, who were married and had two children. In 2003, Robert suffered a massive heart attack when his daughters were only 3 years and 19 months. His brain had no oxygen for 45 minutes, so when he was revived, he was a changed man. He required the kind of full-time care one can only get in an assisted living facility. As is typical, Page and the children visited Robert every day initially, but over time came less, with the kids only coming on Saturdays for lunch.
Robert’s brain injury was so bad at the beginning that at one point during his initial rehab he looked at his wife and said, “You seem like a nice lady. How come you’re not married?” Susan Baer of the Post continues, Page went “home that day and put away the diamond and emerald ring he had given her when he proposed. Looking at it made her too sad.”
After five years of living alone, married to a man who was no longer himself, Page fell in love with an old classmate, Allan. In June of 2010, Allan asked Page to marry him. But she couldn’t leave Robert without anyone to care for him. So Allan agreed to move Robert to St. Louis where he and his children lived so that Page could continue to be responsible for his medical care.
“For all the good of Richmond and the support we’ve had, we’ve all been sort of defined by the injury,” Page said. “The girls will have the benefit of Robert’s relationship but also grow up in a house with Allan and all the things that you do as a family.”
Robert’s brother and parents supported the arrangement. His father said, “We had anguished a lot about the fact that Page was trapped — trapped by her love for Robert and overwhelming sense of loyalty to him. She had no life whatsoever, and those two girls did not have any kind of father image in their upbringing. So, we were very comfortable with the new relationship. More than comfortable; we encouraged it.”
Page and Robert’s divorce went through without a hitch; Robert moved to St. Louis with his new, extended family and Allan promised in his wedding vows to always help Page “provide compassionate care for Robert.” Allan admits there is “some awkwardness in their unorthodox family” and he “wonders how much Robert truly comprehends, since he still sometimes refers to Page as his wife.” But he says,”Truthfully, it came down to realizing that if I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Page,” he knew he had to learn how to embrace the situation.
There’s a lot of beautiful sentiment and raw emotion in the full story, which is more nuanced than what I can sum up here. You should go read it. Then answer me this: what do you think you would do if faced with a similar situation? This guy Allan sounds like a Godsend. I wonder if he has a younger brother…
Read more about inspiring men: I’m a second-generation stay-at-home dad.