Romance stories aren’t only for the young. We’ve always known that. But still, it’s the stories of youthful innocence and falling in love that make the best seller lists. The stories of couples entering their seventh decade of marriage make the back pages.
But those long relationships started somewhere, a lot of times with young love. And these stories get better with age.
Last week I sat in a hospital room with two people I dearly love, both in their mid-eighties. A palliative care professional was trying to get the man, recovering from a stroke, to think about “outcomes” and “interventions.” She asked, “How would you feel about it, if you couldn’t go home? If you had to go to a nursing facility?”
First, he hemmed and hawed and said he had every intention of getting well. When she pressed him, he said (and speech was a little bit of a struggle in the aftermath of his stroke), “You see that lady over there? She’s basically my world… If I still have my wits and I have her, I can adjust to anything.”
“How long have you been married?” asked the nurse, visibly moved.
“Sixty-five years,” they answered. In unison.
Then the man started telling the nurse a story, one that happened some 67 years ago, but still his favorite. About how he had a blind date one night. And how, as he drove home from the date, he knew he’d just met the lady he was going to marry. But, then the man let the nurse in on a secret—one I’d never heard.
He was scared. “I was still a student at Michigan State. I had no idea how I’d support a wife. Much less an idea of how I’d raise a family.” He laughed a belly laugh. “But I did it. We did it. Three grown kids… Can you believe that?” He shook his head and grinned at his wife.
It’s not surprising to see a man in his eighties feeling thankful for life he’s led. For his degrees, career, children, and financial security.
But him thinking the best part of it all was a meeting the girl of his dreams? That she still is? That proves that romance stories are about a lot more than romance.