I’m sitting here on a sweltering hot Sunday afternoon. Old age has given me the right to review my life, and look back on it trying to honestly evaluate it and how successful I was inside of it! My mom, a native Pennsylvanian, always used to quote an old Pennsylvania Dutch expression that has stayed in my mind all these years, “We grow too soon oldt, and too late smart!” These old world sayings carry a lot of truth in them. People were more basic back then and didn’t mince words, just told it like it is. Perhaps now, a month before the big 75, I earned my degree. That’s my life degree not my scholastic degree. The day’s topic is LOVE! There are different kinds of love. It starts with your love for your parents and siblings, although sibling Iove is a rough and rugged road! We love some of our toys, and as we age those toys just get bigger and more expensive. BUT that Is easy love cause they aren’t expected to love you back. The tricky part is loving someone who chooses to love you in return. We can’t omit the love of our pets. Probably the truest form of love, given to you purely because you feed them and are kind to them! Then of course is the love for your own progeny. They adjust to your quirks and learn to love you in spite of them. But on this hot steamy Sunday my reflection has wandered to romantic love- a whole other ballgame!
I knew I was different at a very young age-just didn’t know what to call it. Jr High gym classes where we changed in locker rooms helped me clarify my difference. All through high school and college I pretended. I didn’t know anyone else was like me. But I knew what was expected of me and I learned to suppress the longings and urges I was experiencing. And I fell in love with a wonderful woman and for quite a while had a very loving relationship. Many years passed and life was getting in the way. My older brother came out to the family and that was a very emotional and motivating moment for me. Our marriage was struggling by then and we separated. I came out everywhere- to my kids, to my school, friends, everywhere and over time met another person to love. I retired and moved out of state to fulfill his dream. And so it goes. Now at the 3/4 Century mark do I have the right to experience the courtship, love, excitement, and yes, arousal that such activity brings? Can I really go through dating again at this point? At this age what do I have to offer other than arms to cuddle, ears to listen and comfort another with. And with all the baggage I drag around with me is it even reasonable to ask another to share the rough road ahead? Am I willing to soothe, comfort and console his future through difficult times ahead? I think I am, to experience one more time the excitement of getting to know a person, explore his body, laugh and cry at appropriate times and just know someone is on your side. It is a gamble but I guess I am willing to risk it one last time. God willing, I’m ready to chance it.
All Wool and a Yard Wide
Okay – two anecdotes before I get to the point of my rejoinder:
- Two nonagenarians are currently building a 10,000 sq. ft. retreat near where we vacation in the Adirondacks. The structure is being built in British Columbia of Sitka spruce, deconstructed and shipped to its new location. It will require oversized trailers to ship the pieces. The trucks and trailer are too big to turn around, so they need to be backed down two miles of a narrow dirt road. The inside completion involves many contractors and the specifications call for a great deal of custom work. Will these folks live to see the completion of this project?
- A 95 year-old friend needs a new vehicle. His 22 year old truck has rusted out, such that the structural integrity is in jeopardy. He wants to buy a new truck and won’t consider either a used or leased vehicle. Is this a good business plan?
Both of these stories underscore the life’s buoyancy. Why should these folks settle for something that will disappoint, even if there is a strong probability of limited use? There’s an old saying (since George is into that) “All Wool and a yard wide”. It’s meant to indicate something of high quality. Why shouldn’t life be ‘all wool and a yard wide’? I submit that our need to search for joy does not diminish with age, even if what brings joy might change over time.
And what brings more joy than intimacy? What is more life affirming than expressing or receiving love – whether physical or otherwise? So, I say to George and Hen – Go for It!
Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
George raises some fundamental questions as he/we face our final years. Have we lived successful lives? Do we have the right, desire, or inclination to love anew or perhaps, rekindle former love? As with all things in life, there are only the answers we chose for ourselves.
As for the former question, I feel good about how I’ve lived my life and seek to continue to do so with renewed vigor.
And then there’s the question of love at 75! How fortunate we are to even be able to entertain the question. To find myself relatively fit and healthy, not having to worry about the basic necessities, and with a multitude of ways to meet and be with others, it is a gift to be able to focus on such a musing.
When I wore a younger man’s clothes, I remember thinking of single people in their 70’s as incapable of romantic interests and focused happily on remaining friends and family as enough to fulfill their need for love. What was I thinking???
Today I’m in the midst of packing up my home and moving closer to my children and grandchildren. The love I’ve always had for them and felt from them is compelling enough for me to want to spend the rest of my days in closer contact with them and their friends. Of that I’m clear. I look forward to creating new memories, embarking on new adventures, and enjoying more in person time with those who were once part of my daily life.
Of course the need for a more intimate companionship and romantic feelings is not dead. And while I recently set them aside and redirected my focus from finding the person to fill these needs to accepting the role of single Pop Pop integrating into his children’s families, the desire remained. There is an old saying, “Good things come to those who wait.” As has happened in my life many times, when I stop trying so hard to make something work and move on with something else, what I once sought seems to find it’s way to me. Sometimes, it comes directly at me, in just the way I had originally expected. Other times, I needed to rewrite my story and put aside former ways of thinking about what I wanted in order for it to become a reality. And, in this time of great change in my life, so it was that I have rethought how I might enjoy the gifts and joys of a new kind of relationship with my former partner by creating a way to live more fully in the present and use the wisdom of older age to speak, as George puts it, more basically without mincing words. Time will tell if this new construct works for us as we each prepare to move to more distant and separate locations. Perhaps, as we seek ways to reclaim what was once good and reframe how we look at what appeared to be unsolvable challenges, more in our lives can be resurrected that bring us joy and connection, and love. As a rampant optimist, I am looking forward to our journey.
As Francois Rabelais once said, “I go to seek a great perhaps!”