Ask this couple of six decades the secret to their long married life and both of them attribute it to tolerance.
Jacob and Janice Abbenes will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary on October 30.
“We don’t always agree, we have different customs and ways of thinking but get accustomed to it,” laughs 90- year-old Jacob who has been living in the same property since 1959 where the couple brought up five kids.
Jacob is Dutch and emigrated from Holland more than five decades ago. Janice is Australian and was on a working holiday with two of her girlfriends when cupid struck.
Jacob claims it was a vacuum cleaner and a refrigerator that first got them together.
“We were both flatting in the same house in Remuera, and we could hear the girls from across the bathroom door. I once heard her flatmate say `I can’t find my pyjamas’ so I shouted ‘you can take mine’,”
“In those days we used to own a vacuum cleaner and fridge so the girls would come across to put their meats like sausages in our fridge and borrow our vacuum cleaner.
That’s how we got to know more about each other as they would drop in regularly. We started cuddling once in a way…and that’s how it all starts,” he laughs.
Janice says “it was cradle-snatching” since he is seven years older than her, to which he responds, “I think women like men in uniform. I used to be a bus driver with Auckland Transport in those days and had a good uniform that she probably fell in love with.”
Janice reveals that her flatmate got married to Jacob’s flatmate and that both the couples and their children are still in touch.
“We were so busy bringing up our children that we didn’t have time for anything else,” says the proud grandmother of 10 grandchildren.
“Now when I talk to my grandchildren, I feel there was not much we gave our children,” she admits. “Our highlight was a once-in-a-year camping trip and we even took two of our neighbour’s kids along. Don’t know how we fitted seven in one car without seat-belts in those days” she laughs.
“But now when I ask my grandson what he is doing in his school holidays, he says he is going to America,” she says.
Parents of Chris, Gloria, Derek, Julie and Nigel, their daughter Gloria who is present at the interview, says it’s her youngest brother Nigel who now lives in Japan and regularly reads the Times online, who asked her “to contact the newspaper for a write-up on mum and dad’s wedding anniversary”.
Her oldest brother Chris, who is now 59, was a paperboy for the Times around 45 years ago. “And all of us would sit in a circle and help him fold the papers,” she says.
Jacob, who still mows the lawns at 90, says the secret to long married life and all their children getting along well with each other is contentment. “I’ve always been very content with what I’ve had, and so is my wife,” he says.