2012-02-09 / Family

Forever valentines

By Sylvie Belmond

FOR BETTER AND WORSE—Gloria and Bob Farley of Oak Park got to “fall in love all over again” after an accident erased Bob’s memory of his family. The Farleys lead couples workshops at local churches. 
SYLVIE BELMOND/Acorn Newspapers FOR BETTER AND WORSE—Gloria and Bob Farley of Oak Park got to “fall in love all over again” after an accident erased Bob’s memory of his family. The Farleys lead couples workshops at local churches. SYLVIE BELMOND/Acorn Newspapers On Jan. 24, 1986, Los Angeles Police Officer Bob Farley was training a new recruit in pursuit maneuvers at the L.A. County Fairgrounds in Pomona when their car slammed into a retaining wall at 70 miles per hour.

Farley’s ribs, collarbone, hip and shoulder were broken. He sustained lung and heart damage, requiring six months of hospitalization. He was unconscious for 32 days.

The recruit, who was driving the car, sustained only minor injuries.

The accident wiped out Farley’s memory, and he couldn’t remember anything about his life as a husband and father of two young daughters.

“He didn’t recognize that he was a family member. It broke my heart when he didn’t recognize his children,” said his wife, 62-year-old Gloria Farley.

The trauma fractured the Farleys’ lives, but it did not shatter the bond they’d fostered during their first 16 years of marriage.

“ The beauty of it is that we got to fall in love all over again,” said Bob Farley, who’s 63 and still recovering from his trauma.

A Portland, Ore., native, Farley joined the Marine Corps at age 18. He met his future wife in 1967 while attending boot camp at Camp Pendleton, and they began dating.

After a 13- month tour in Vietnam, Farley reunited with his girlfriend and they were married in June 1970.

“Even though he went through a lot of trauma, he always came out a whole person. He returned from the war with a strong faith and a sense of direction,” Gloria Farley said.

Accepting differences and learning to forgive

The foundation of a successful marriage is commitment, compromise and forgiveness, Bob Farley said.

“Marriage is other-centered, not self-centered. We all struggle with our self-centeredness, so we need to learn to let go in order to compromise,” he said, adding that he and his wife have learned to respond to each other’s needs and to foster trust.

“ We’ve had our disagreements, but we never said hurtful things,” he continued. “You have to be careful not to violate the trust.”

Although her husband’s transition from police officer to early pensioner wasn’t easy, Gloria Farley said, the accident in 1986 reinforced her commitment to him—for better and for worse.

“Bob wasn’t expected to live after the accident. I realized I didn’t want to live without him, and it gave me the strength to move forward,” said Gloria, a registered nurse who took a year off to care for her husband.

For the first three years after the accident his behavior was childlike. Although balancing the roles of caregiver and wife was not easy, she said divorce was never an option.

Over time, Bob Farley learned various coping techniques to regain his independence. He eventually took over the household duties while his wife returned to work.

Leading by example

To safeguard their marriage, the Farleys sought to surround themselves with like-minded couples who treasure one another.

In addition to starting a love ministry to teach communication techniques and offer fellowship and support to other couples at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Thousand Oaks, the Farleys helped launch Agape programs in other parishes throughout the Los Angeles region.

Agape love represents Christ’s unconditional love for people, said Bob Farley, who also hosts a St. Max workshop called “Fireproofing your Marriage” with his wife.

Farley said when his daughters were young and starting to date he tried to impress upon them that a woman should be treated with kindness and respect.

“They raised me with Agape love, which is why I think my marriage has been so strong and so good,” said daughter Jana, 36, adding that when her parents disagreed in her presence they also reconciled openly to demonstrate that arguments would never splinter the relationship.

“My parents have shown unconditional love to each other,” the daughter said.

Jana and her husband, Weston Sutherland, a scientist at Amgen, have been married for 12 years. They have two children, daughter Ella, 5, and newborn son Emmett, who was born Feb. 3.

The Farleys and Sutherlands share a home in Oak Park.

The Farleys’ youngest daughter, Megan, 29, a chemist, and her husband, Ryan Hodges, a schoolteacher, live in Camarillo.

Now in their early 60s, the Farleys date regularly to keep their relationship fresh.

For Valentine’s Day, Bob Farley plans to take his wife on a special outing.

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