60 years, they still hold hands

SINGAPORE - She still hates the noise her husband makes when he stumbles into bed at night.

And he knows better than to "engage" her when she is stewing, admits Mr Peter Pong.

Yet, in May, the Pongs will be celebrating their 60th anniversary, making them one of the longest-married couples in Singapore.

Mrs Helen Pong, 83, says: "No marriage is without fights or quarrels. If you have faith and patience, your marriage will last."

And yes, like others, they've fought over their children and other trivial matters.

"Like everyone else, we didn't know how to raise children or how to be better partners," says Mr Pong, 90, a retired sales manager of a stationery company.

"We learnt along the way."

Their three children are now aged between 47 and 59.

Mr Pong, who survived World War II at the age of 18, believes that destiny led him to his biggest prize - winning his wife's heart.

He says: "I knew she was the one when I first met her. And in all these years, I didn't look at anyone else because she's the love of my life."

They met at a coffee shop in Koek Road when Mrs Pong was 19.

Mrs Pong says with a laugh: "At the first meeting with my mother, he addressed her as 'Pak Mou' (a polite term in Cantonese for auntie). After that she (Mrs Pong's mother) allowed him to continue dating me."

They shyly admit they have been holding hands ever since.

Is that their secret to a long-lived marriage?

The couple laugh, saying there is no secret. But they strongly believe in two F-words - forgiveness and faithfulness - with a dash of give and take.

Mrs Pong says: "My husband drives me crazy sometimes, but we often apologise to each other because we don't want to keep grudges."

At their Serangoon North flat, among the family photos, is a pair of golden peaches.

Encased in a protective glass cover, the golden peaches, which symbolise longevity, were won by the Pongs in a Golden Couple contest in 1998, around their 50th wedding anniversary.

Mrs Pong says: "I know only a handful of 'golden couples'. Sadly, usually one of them doesn't make it to see the 50th anniversary."

The Pongs' long love story was almost cut short once.

In 2007, Mrs Pong was struck with a severe case of acute pancreatitis. The doctor had told the family there was only a 10 per cent chance of survival.

Mr Pong had feared the worst. He says: "We all cried that day.

"I can't imagine what life would be without her. I learnt not to take her for granted after that experience. I realised I still loved her."

Their youngest child, Mr Chris Pong, says it warms his heart whenever he sees his parents hold hands. He says: "It's rare to see elderly couples act that way."

Touched by what her husband just said in the interview, Mrs Pong reaches over.

He looks her in the eye and says: "I may not have any money to buy you diamonds for our diamond anniversary, but I give you my heart."

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