Commentaries & Essays
Fri March 8, 2013
Love in the Late Afternoon
There are delightful surprises sprinkling the path to falling in love again at my age. I’ve always been something of a romantic, but in the last few decades that blissful trait has been buried under the weight of getting older, crushing some of the sense of delight and discovery necessary to maintain the magic.
In the past few years, I’d not even entertained the thought that fresh and adventurous romance was a possibility. I didn’t miss it because I didn’t expect it.
Now, it stares at me daily in the form of the perfectly delightful, bright, outgoing, upbeat and lovely to her bones Leah Weiss. We met at a writers conference in Bedford County, met again online and bam! there it was, loosing Cupid’s arrow before we knew to duck.
The feeling is not much different from that I had for half a dozen young women 30, 40 or 50 years ago. There was that inevitable moment when I sat down under a tree and asked myself, “Am I 17 or 65? Is this normal? Can my heart take it? What do I do next?” I was as clumsy as a teenager, as mesmerized as a charmed cobra, as excited as the young boy who’s heard “yes” from a girl for the first time.
A lot of the newness of this has had to do with our ages. We’re each in the middle of the seventh decade and when I say, “I used to get up in the morning trying to figure out new ways to hate Richard Nixon,” she doesn’t ask, “What band was he with?” She knows the feeling.
If I say Richard Speck or Alger Hiss, she knows to frown. She recognizes the difference between Gene McCarthy and Joe McCarthy. If I say Ann-Margaret, she understands that there’s a hyphen between the names and that it’s Ann-Margaret’s whole name. She knows what a hatchback, a fast back and a Mustang II are. If I sing, “Are you going to Scarborough Fair,” she replies, “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.” Smallpox vaccination’s nasty scabs and swimming pools closed by the polio epidemic make her wince. We deeply grieve for the souls we lost in Vietnam, Walter Cronkite’s daily body count etched in our memories.
Our entertainment is much different than it would have been 30 years ago. A “nooner” for example is a nap. A “quickie” a short nap. If I suggest dinner and dancing, the last part of that is watching “Chicago” on Netflix. The first half most often has me at the stove. We both write and often we do it together, sometimes painfully. She made my novel better. I taught her to spell “hallelujah.” We both cried.
We live in cities 50 miles apart and that is not a detriment. When we get together, we have missed each other and our reuniting is sweet, tender and full—what you’d expect in a movie like “Reds” when Diane Keaton runs across the railroad platform to greet Warren Beatty. A movie moment in real life. When we are apart, we have full lives but we have perfected the art of the compelling text message.
I introduced Leah to kayaking in the spring, but not to whitewater—my old stomping grounds. We’re more suited to lakes than to class 5 rapids. I re-introduced her to the bicycle, but not to the mountain bike, which is for roads we prefer to fly over. We both walk a lot and she takes yoga three times a week. We’re active, but activity is a relative term at our age, tempered with aching muscles and creaking joints. If I suggest we go out at 9, she knows I mean for breakfast.
We have to be aware that I have a new knee, that she has a pain in her hip, that our physical limitations are more limiting than they once were. We work around it. She wears a hearing aid, which she takes out at night. Sweet nothings really are nothing then, replaced by sweet touches. Our challenge is to find new ways to stimulate each other. We know all the old ones.
The value of subtlety is uncontested these days. A foot massage and head rub are sensual, intimate, fulfilling. Sometimes a hug, a caress, a look or a word is enough, its value deeply held and fully satisfying.
This is a delicious moment for us, coming unexpectedly, suddenly and magically. It is not something we’ll waste this time.