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Mаry Mamyan

The ‘Golden Years’: Married Couples, Old and New, at Yerevan’s Nork Retirement Home

Six married couples reside at the Nork Retirement Home in Yerevan. Four were married there.

“Paint your eyebrows, paint your lips, so that they can photograph you,” Harout jokingly tells his wife. “If she doesn’t, what good is she? She’s a fashionable grandma.”

Anoush, his wife, confesses that she loves to use lipstick because Harout likes it.

“I have this one man, for good or bad,” says a grinning Anoush. To which Harout adds, “So who has two or three?”

Harout Mkrtchyan and Anoush Tavrazyan have been married for five years, Harout recounts when he first saw Anoush, who arrived at the Nork Retirement Home after he did. “I used to follow her around,” says Harout, adding that one of his friends suggested that it would be nice if Harout and Anoush got engaged. The friend offered to stand in as godfather. A few months later the two approached the home’s director and asked for a separate room. They had a church wedding. Anoush says that she had a number of suitors but that she took a liking to Harout from the get go.

“Her eyes attracted me, beguiled me,” Harout jokes while looking into the blue eyes of his wife. Anoush repays the compliment by throwing him a glance or two.

“He’s tall, handsome and commands a wealth of words,” Anoush says about her husband, and confesses that she’s extremely jealous. “I’ve been married twice before and I love Harout the best. He’s very caring. I love men who are serious. What good are whimsical men?”

“So, if you loved me so much, why didn’t you let my place my bed next to yours?” quips Harout. (Their beds are placed front to back-M.M.) To this Anoush replies that she’ll jump into Harout’s bed whenever he wants.  

Anoush was 18 when she first married. Childless, the couple separated. During her second marriage, Anoush went childless as well, but reared her husband’s three kids from another marriage. She still keeps in touch with them.

Harout is a native of Gyumri. After the 1988 earthquake, the family lived in a tomik (makeshift trailer). The family is still on the waiting list for a new apartment. Harout’s wife died in 2005Their grandson married a year later. Seeing that there wasn’t enough room for all of them, Harout moved to Hrazdan to live with his sister. He heard about the Nork Home through a friend and secretly made the move.

“It’s not enough to love someone, people have to be simpatico,” says Anoush. “He’s my life companion. I have no one else but him her. He’s my lord and master.”

Nanouli and Khoren Karakhanyan have been married for 44 years. 

Nanouli recounts that before getting married, she had seen a vision of her future husband in a dream. When she first met Khoren she said to herself, “This must be him. What can I do?” Nanouli says that she initially refused his advances and that Khoren actually stole her away.

The couple told me that the secret to a successful marriage is mutual trust and that this virtue has gotten them through life’s rough spots. And the roughest time for the couple, Nanouli notes, is when her firstborn miscarried. The couple has remained childless since.

Khoren says that his parents would bring up the issue at every opportunity. Infuriated, he told them never to come to his house if they were only to raise it again. “I made my choice and will live with it,” Khoren says.

Nanouli, evidently affected emotionally with the topic of our conversation, sat there in silence. Out of the blue, she suggested that we all dance. “Isn’t there any dance music? Let’s dance,” she said. Boasting, Khoren said that he had taught his wife to dance; a pastime that they frequently enjoy.

Sara Hakobyan and Hratch Grigoryan have been married for two years. Sara worked as a bank manager, while Hratch was first in the shoe business and later a botanical therapist.

Sara says she met her future husband on the first day she arrived at Nork. “I hadn’t gotten through the door when he said ‘what a good looking girl has arrived.’”

Hratch tells me that he separated from his wife twelve years before Sara arrived and that he always wanted to remarry but could never find a suitable woman.

“I want a wife who is pretty and who has a small mouth and feet. I’ll cook the meals and do the laundry,” Hratch would say before getting married. “My friends would tell me that what I wanted was a kukla doll. I’d tell them they were right, I wanted a kukla to parade around at my side.”

“Now he prepares the meals and washes the dishes. The only thing he doesn’t do is pick up the broom and sweep,” Sara jokes.

Hratch has a car and the couple likes to take drives to Sevan and elsewhere when the weather is nice. Sara says married life would be great if it weren’t for Hratch’s yelling. Hratch chimes in that he can’t help it, he has a short fuse. “There’s an Armenian saying that goes, you can’t have the meat without the bone,” Hratch adds.

Sara had two sons from her first marriage. They both died in their 40s from alcohol and drug abuse. They left huge debts and Sara lost all her possessions as a result. She has two grandchildren. One lives in the United States and the other, in Armenia, visits her occasionally. Hratch has a son, a daughter and four grandkids. He doesn’t see them that often.

On a philosophical note Hratch says that if it wasn’t for Sara, he’d be a widower, alone and facing death.

“If one of us goes, the one who goes gets some peace and the remaining one then dies as well, because we need one another so much. The best thing for people at the end of life is to be together, without a care in the world.”

Photos: Narek Aleksanyan

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