Just weeks away from my wedding, the excitement and nervousness of spending the rest of my life with the woman I love is both daunting and exhilarating. I spent my childhood surrounded by single parents and divorcees, so when I hear of truly deeply madly type loves, I find myself inspired.
Through the months of wedding preparations, I got the chance to spend some time with my fiancé’s grandparents. I was astounded to learn, and grateful to have the chance to listen to, stories about their epic love, one which has spanned a lifetime.
In 1954 Tawee and Jansom Funtem, two childhood friends who used to play in the rice fields and walk the seven kilometres into town together on the weekends, literally tied the knot and became lifetime lovers. Now both in their mid-eighties, they are great-grandparents who remain as deeply in love as they have always been.
Tawee was 21 and Jansom just 19 when the cotton strings bound their hands together on an auspicious morning at Tawee’s family home. As was tradition, Jansom moved into Tawee’s home and began her career as a housewife. Jobless Tawee quickly applied to become a policeman so that he could support his bride.
Earning just 196 baht a month, Tawee began his 39 year career in the police force, retiring at the age of 60 in 1994. With such a small wage, their life was simple and they had few savings. Three years later Tawee was promoted and started earning a staggering 450 baht a month. “When I was promoted I had to move to Mae Tang in Chiang Mai,” said Tawee. “Jansom had to stay at home in Lampang. That was the hardest time in our lives, as we could not be together.”
Jansom grabbed Tawee’s hand as she looked at him adding, “If I go anywhere, I have to go with Tawee. Otherwise I’d have no one to look after me! I was so worried he’d get into trouble, I was so happy when he moved back home.”
Soon children were on the way and Tawee moved back to Lampang and brought a brand new house in the village for 18,000 baht. Sometime after that, they splashed out on a tiny black and white TV, the first in the village, which was shared amongst friends and neighbours trying to catch the latest shows. As the years ticked by, so did their lives. Their children grew old, and they grew older still.
“You know we have never argued, not once,” said Tawee with a smile on his face that was quickly wiped away when Jansom replied, “of course we have, don’t be ridiculous!” They shared a cheeky wink and burst out laughing.
“The trick is to keep quiet if she starts shouting,” smiled Tawee as he looked to me and gestured towards my fiancé. “Same goes for the wife,” added Jansom, “just keep quiet. The trick is that we have never let an argument get out of hand, it’s probably why we are still together today.”
Having shared a childhood, Tawee and Jansom have been surrounded by friends and family for their entire lives. Today they are the bedrock of the Funtem family.
Flicking through some dusty photo albums of sun-bleached holiday snaps, Tawee jumps up and grins. “I almost forgot, look at this,” he shouts, soon coming back with a recent picture of his wife wearing a sash. “She just won Miss Old Aged Pensioner last month, she is still so beautiful and everyone in the village knows it,” he beams with pride, staring at the photo of his 82 year old wife.
Despite both of them insisting that they were “not too sweet,” it is obvious to all that the pair simply adore one another. They reach out and grasp my fiancé and my hands in theirs, looked at us and simply said, “To be married this long you need to be open and share your life as one. We hope you will too.”
From playing in the fields as kids and watching the coronation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej together as teenagers, to getting married, having children and now passing on sage advice to the next generation; they are an inspiration and prove that love is real and can stand the test of time. Both healthy and active, their life together is far from over.
It is getting late and the couple prepares for bed. Tawee warms a bowl of water as he gets ready to wash Jansom’s hair, a ritual they have been performing for decades. I look to my soon-to-be wife and hope that maybe one day, we will be interviewed by our grandchildren as we continue past our very own diamond wedding anniversary…I guess only time will tell.