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Marriage withstands test of time

By Brynn Campbell

Heather and Cliff McLean have been married and in love for 47 years. Photo by Brynn Campbell

“Marriage is a work in progress, and don’t take anyone for granted,” advises Heather Mclean as she places her hand on her husband Cliff’s knee.

The couple has been married for 47 years now and from their body language and constant giggling, it is quite apparent that love is still very much in the air.

Actually, being around Heather and Cliff feels like being around two teenagers who just started dating. It is obvious that there is some sort of magic between them, and their recipe for lasting love has all the right ingredients. The consistent affection and the way the couple looks into each other’s eyes indicates that they are still madly in love with one another after all these years.

Heather and Cliff moved to their ranch in the Tweed seven years ago. The move was a major change to their usual upbeat city life.

“We’ve lived in Boston, Montreal, Hollywood, Downey California, a lot of different places,” says Heather.

The sunlight glimmers on the cozy old cottage that they live in, on top of a hill alongside their rusty old red barn. The only surrounding noises are crickets and dogs barking in the background – it’s a very peaceful setting.

The porch leading into the house is cozy spot where the couple sits to watch the sun set in their white wicker chairs. The relaxed atmosphere and beautiful sunset give the couple’s home a tranquil and romantic feeling, the same kind of feeling that being around the couple gives.

“I told her on our second date that I was going to marry her,” says Cliff. “I knew right away.  It took Heather a little while.”

Heather laughs at Cliff’s assurance and points out how arrogant she first thought he was. Although if it hadn’t been for Cliff’s confidence in what he saw, he would not have “fell in love with a good pair of legs.”

You can tell that the conversation is bringing up old feelings as they fondly rub each other’s hands and gaze into one another’s eyes.

Heather was getting her car fixed at Sunoco gas station in Montreal when Cliff first saw her. While she was leaving she passed Cliff driving in the opposite direction towards the auto body shop.

“I was going back to find out who she was,” admits Cliff. “ I had to go up on the sidewalk to avoid a collision, and I got a second grin and a wave.”

“I didn’t wave,” Heather corrects Cliff.

“You certainly did,” reassures Cliff.

After Cliff found her contact details, he phoned her several times, trying to win her over. According to Cliff, Heather was a heartbreaker and turned him down several times.

“I was dating a pilot at the time,” Heather laughs.

Finally, after about the fifth phone call, Cliff’s persistence began to pay off. Heather began to feel curious about this man who was so tenacious. Heather had finally agreed to meet him so Cliff visited Heather at her aunt’s place where she was living at the time.

“My aunt answered the door and liked him immediately,” states Heather.

After about an hour of conversation, Cliff persuaded Heather into coming out to a club, and so their first official date was at Café Andre in Montreal. When Heather arrived back home at her aunt’s, her aunt told her this was going to be the guy she would marry.

“Marriage wasn’t even on my mind at this time,” says Heather.

“Neither mine, but I fell in love,” chirps in Cliff.

After six months of dating, Cliff proposed to Heather. They were then engaged for 11 months and got married on March 7, 1964. They later had three children, two boys and one girl.

From then on, Heather and Cliff grew together and had many experiences that brought them even closer.

“We are very good friends,” Heather says when the topic of soulmates came up. They both agreed they believe in this concept of soulmates, but you don’t necessarily just have one, but only one at a time.

“Convincing Heather to spend her life with me was the smartest thing I ever did,” Cliff says confidently. “She is the centre of my universe.”

Even their neighbours Kathy and Dave Rice across the road admit that the two are a great couple.

“They tease and tod. They have that kind of comfortable feeling amongst the two, it is quite obvious,” says Dave Rice. “They even have a sign above their door that says ‘Great fisherman lives here along with his great catch.’ ”

But not every moment has been rainbows and butterflies. Heather was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006. Fortunately for Heather, Cliff was there by her side to help her through her illness.

“I could not have gotten through this without him. He was just with me all the time.”

The tone of Heather’s voice softens as she speaks about her illness. She had not only had ovarian cancer, she also had two brain aneurisms at the same time.

“This is a tough lady you are talking about,” Cliff says, as he comforts his wife by putting his arm around her shoulder.

“Friends of ours who have known us for a long time say that 47 years with me would toughen up anybody.”

Heather mentions that her illness was so severe that she probably shouldn’t be alive today. She feels very fortunate to have such a strong companion by her side to help her through such hard times. Both Heather and Cliff agreed that love and a positive mentality is what helped Heather fight her battle.

“It makes you understand what is important in this life, and it ain’t how many toys are in the barn,” says Cliff as tears well up in his eyes.

The sun finally sets and the couple heads off to bed, still consistently giggling and chatting. Marriage is a working progress, but it is quite apparent that the work pays off.

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