Adelaide Mkandawire and Everlisto Moloko Mwale have been married for more than a life time—65 years. In celebrating their 65th anniversary, they tell their tale which reveals the jaunts and joys of marriage. Bright Mhango attended the anniversary celebrations in Kasungu and presents their story.
In the fast growing agricultural town of Nkhamenya in the central Malawi district of Kasungu, two octogenarians set the bar high for the current generation.
Maybe too high.
Adelaide Mkandawire, 81, and her husband Everlisto Moloko Mwale, 85, have been married since 9 September, 1948 and still are.
“I never had a jacket and tie; I borrowed combat boots and army trousers from a friend who had fought in the Second World War, and my wife was in a wrapper and plain clothes I had bought her,” said the husband.
The whole affair has origins in a celibate Catholic priest who was based at Nkhamenya where Everlisto went to church. The priest saw three beautiful girls in three different areas around Nkhamenya in one of his field visits. Since he could not marry them himself, he told Everlisto to sample them out.
“Of the three girls, I chose to go to Chamakala where Adelaide stayed because it was nearer to home, and that was the beginning of this marriage,” chuckled Mwale who had to be quickly whisked aside as he took lunch since the anniversary ceremony was treated like a normal wedding.
For Adelaide, who was by then about 15, the whole thing was bigger than her: Here was a college student asking for her hand in marriage from a distant location. She risked marrying a monster or being trafficked.
“I was clueless; the boys just came to our village and asked me out, said yes but I did not know what was happening,” she said.
Four cows were demanded as lobola, three were delivered and the fourth given in cash value, by then about 30 shillings, they say.
And came the wedding; it was attended by just about nine people, three from the girl’s side and three, including the bridegroom himself and Sipiliano Banda, who played plenipotentiary in Mwale’s proposal.
The only place where the wedding would be officiated then, says Mwale, was at a Catholic mission just inside Mzimba from Kasungu. Adelaide walked from Chamakala and Everlisto from Kaluluma Chopera Village to Champhira in Mzimba.
Sweaty in the September heat and uncomfortable in the army boots and trousers, Everlisto said his ‘I dos.’ For Adelaide, she hardly knew the boy she was saying she loved; she could only hope for the best.
At least he had bought her a flat canvas shoe for the wedding and had her dress made. She hoped right.
“In all my 65 years in marriage with her, I have never raised this hand against this lady, we had arguments like all couples do, but we solved them peacefully,” declared Mwale.
But if he didn’t beat her physically, he did so emotionally: Mwale married another woman, effectively casting Adelaide into polygamy. What went wrong? Was there something that his original wife was not doing right?
“No, there was nothing wrong with Adelaide, it’s just that I wanted someone to look after my business I had set up in another area,” said Mwale, not convincing me with his reply.
Adelaide didn’t move an inch. The Ngoni culture did not frown upon polygamy, it does not even now, but it was not just culture that made her live through polygamy.
“I could not just leave the children; you see, marriage is not easy, one just has to put their trust in Jesus and they can surmount every obstacle that comes,” said Adelaide.
Robert Mkandawire, Parish Priest of Nkhamenya Parish, who oversaw the mass during which the couple retook their vows, admitted that in his three decades of service, he has never handled a 65th wedding anniversary.
“This is an honour to the church and an invitation to the youth. At a time when marriages are shaky because of modern pressures such as technology and financial crises, this couple’s retaking of vows shows that marriage needs understanding and perseverance.
“Marriage is not simple or easy. Humility and simplicity are vital. Couples today need to focus on how best they can live at a time when everyday is a challenge,” said Father Mkandawire.
Adelaide echoed Mkandawire’s advice and said wives should not counter their husbands’ infidelity with more infidelity but remain steadfast in their love.
The couple went on to have 11 children, six of them boys. They educated their children: one is a Catholic priest, one a quantity surveyor… and in their old age, the well-off children are so far taking good care of the old couple.
The 65th anniversary celebration was actually another name for a get-together for the sons and daughters and grandchildren of the couple.
And it was a scary sight: a school of offspring invaded Nkhamenya Girls Secondary School to dance and drink to the couple’s long life and stay in marriage.
A cow went down and volume knobs got pushed in the clockwise direction. Adelaide never wore a veil before; 65 year on, she did and it was not much about the couple, it was a dare to the youth: can they live to age 80?
If they can, can they stay in marriage and grow old with their partners?
The moral of the story is definitely somewhere in the 85 years the couple have bagged together. She was there for him when he was just a mere teacher, when he became Member of Parliament, when they lost some children and they still live for each other now as they sail through ill health.
The couple is the dictionary definition of the phrase: ‘Together, for better or for worse.’