In my youth, I was lucky to have a small-town movie theater right down the street from our home. The Saturday matinees were great - especially when there was a western showing.

I loved Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. When they rode their horses and sang "Happy Trails," everything seemed right with the world. Old Gabby Hayes used to say "Howdy, Pardner" to Roy. Even though his character was intended to be the comic relief, the viewer knew that old Gabby would protect Roy's back.

That's what a partner does - protect your back. Whether it's a business partner, a partner in crime, a bridge partner, a silent partner, or a marriage partner, you can count on them to share the load. Life is easier with the right partner.

A friend of ours lost her husband to a massive, sudden heart attack. They had been married for a long time and had a good life together. She told me that her biggest fear is being without her life partner. She misses the comfort of sharing thoughts, events, and daily routines with him. Life will be changed forever for her.

When you check the definition of a "partner," you find that one of the original meanings of the word was "one of the heavy timbers used to strengthen the ship's deck to support the mast." Other synonyms include 'associate' and 'colleague.' A partner is a good thing to have.

When Jim and I play cards with friends, it's usually the men against the women. Some marriage partners prefer NOT to be card partners. Wonder why? Sometimes, card partners screw up and disappoint each other. Some married people don't like to cause marital stress during a game. Jim and I are lucky. We like to be partners.

Actually, some married people don't act much like partners. They live separate lives. Some keep separate bank accounts, take separate vacations, and don't seem to enjoy each other's company very much. Theirs is a 'limited' partnership. If they sat on horses and sang "Happy Trails," the horses would probably buck them off.

Other married partners enjoy each other's company so much that they can be stuck together in a car for a 12-hour road trip and never mind it a bit. Others can work together at chores around the house and enjoy sharing the job. For the lucky marriage partners, housework gets divided, chores are made lighter, decisions are mutual, and compromises are easily reached.

On a recent Caribbean cruise, I participated in a trivia game. We were all asked to partner with a stranger. Not knowing the other person made the task tricky. An elderly gentleman and I chose each other.

He said, "I know sports, history, and current events." I said, "I know literature, music, and the arts." We were good partners and won the contest. What one didn't know, the other did. We made a formidable team.

I think that is the beauty of a true partnership - bringing something unique to the relationship.

Whether it is your husband of many years or a stranger you meet on a ship, sharing lives is the basis for a fine partnership.

In the words of Gabby Hayes, "See you later, pardner!"

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM [1] OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.