‘Don’t laugh at my jokes too much’. Thoughts on senior nookie, assisted living, love after eighty, and unexpected bliss at the end of life.
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note: Suddenly, I burst into a song that made us both laugh. In my croaky voice celebrated worldwide for its almost incredible ability to hit every single note wrong, there I was positively warbling one of the most beautiful tunes ever written,
“Don’t throw bouquets at me/ Don’t please my folks too much/ Don’t laugh at my jokes too much/ People will say we’re in love!”
And then, as unexpected as I had been when I lurched into song, he responded in kind:
“Don’t sigh and gaze at me/ Your sighs are so like mine/ Your eyes mustn’t glow like mine/ People will say we’re in love!”
It was my father. It was a recent Saturday during one of our regular “tour d’horizon” briefings on the state of the known world and the current disposition of all its inhabitants. He was relating the latest installment of “love among the ruins,” the latest red-hot gossip from what he will call “the institution”, the assisted living facility where he and my step-mother Miss Ellie now reside. And, as usual, nothing, absolutely nothing, was lost in the telling of this sizzling soap opera, an opus with more twists, turns and unexpected strands than “Desperate Housewives.”
Today’s “Extra! Extra! Hear all about it!” installment was the latest in the continuing saga of two pillars of the senior establishment, Mrs. Winterbotham, a slip of a lass at 88, and her “sweet boy” Ronnie, lithe and plausible at 90. Before continuing, I feel duty bound to tell you what follows is sensual to a degree, a matter of grand passion, skullduggery, labyrinthine conspiracies, and frequent naps and bathroom breaks by all concerned as well as gossip, at once malicious, envying, poignant, unrelenting, and always worth the telling.
But before that happens, you must re-hear “People Will Say We’re In Love” (for I suspect you already know and cherish it as I do). You’ll find this loveliest of love songs in any search engine. It was written in 1943 by Oscar Hammerstein II and composed by Richard Rodgers for the first modern musical that ever was, “Oklahoma!” Go listen now. It’ll make you feel very young and hopeful all over again… and that is the point of this story… and the song.
What my father told me.
My regular phone conversation had to be postponed a bit because, as he told me, he and Miss Ellie had a very special and delicate mission to undertake; he was sure I’d understand the necessity to reschedule. I murmured concurrence, and they went out to gather the latest amatory intelligence from their dear friend Amanda Winterbotham, there to dispense unstinting empathy, understanding, and the wisdom that we are all supposed to get when aging, but mostly never do.
We muddle. We age. We muddle some more. We die. Most annoying. That is why as we age we need good friends more than ever… because we didn’t learn quite as much along the way as we need or as we over confidently thought we had. This is why all known languages feature such pungent expressions as these: “There’s no fool like an old fool.” “A man growing old is a child again.” (Sophocles). “Age is a high price to pay for maturity.” (Tom Stoppard). And… but you get the drift…
These are the facts.
Amanda Winterbotham is a woman of education, sense, solid principles, her own teeth and a nice little nest egg in rock-solid securities which proved their true worth by not collapsing in the recent economic melt-down. She also bakes often and lavishly and has the ability to tempt compliments out of even the most jaded and pernickety of world-weary epicureans. She is also a woman and therein lies the rub… for such a woman, for all that she’s barely on the sunny side of 90, still likes a kiss and a cuddle, though she feels embarrassed at her age to own up to it. Why should she?
After all, her well-heeled, utterly respectable parents, Top Drawer, (for she is a Winterbotham of the Oyster Bay Winterbothams) christened her “Amanda”. This as every student of the Latin language knows means “She who must be loved”. The tense, I remind you, is the hortatory imperative. Make a note of it. I put it to you: what chance did she have with dapper Ronnie near at hand and desirable, a hunk at 140 pounds dripping wet, with a penchant for the grape and an eye for the ladies. So long as she is the lady in question and her “sweet boy” means every sweet thing he has said to her Amanda is satisfied. Basta.
On this basis, Ronnie and his walker are regularly seen en route to Amanda’s nicely appointed apartment, ensconced in that apartment (with the once ever open door now often closed), or exiting from that apartment at all hours, a crumb of blueberry scone on his lips — and a smile.
There this tale should have ended, two people hitherto facing each new dawn as listlessly as the last — now enraptured with each other, engrossed, glad to be alive. Yes, it should have ended there… but it most assuredly did not.
“People will say we’re in love.”
People talk. That’s what we do. We talk when we’re happy. We talk when we’re sad. We talk when we’re lonely. We talk when we’re not. We spend most every waking moment thinking about what we have just been told… talking… or contemplating the very next thing we intend to say and the undeniably fortunate individual to whom we intend to say it. Talking is our metier… and each and every day we pursue it… especially when we have a piece of glorious intelligence we just cannot bear to keep to ourselves.
No, it must be told… and told at once. Nowhere is this more true than in the senior residences we call “assisted living” where there is ample time, hawk-like vision, and a desire to know all… and tell all. Gossip is omnipresent, unending, told with aplomb, laced with wit, shrewdness, exquisite malice and diabolical humor. This was the price for Ronnie and the pleasure of his company. Was Amanda, dear Amanda, prepared to pay it?
Dear Amanda was bewitched, bothered and bewildered by… her children (who gave long looks of despair while bleating endless variations of “Mama, at your age!”). By… old friends who knew her late husband. They reminded her that Queen Victoria always remained true to Prince Albert… why couldn’t she do as much? The serving staff (composed of young people distinguished by tattoos and ear rings) weighed in and said “Go for it!”) But the minister who came with a message of brotherhood, redemption and the necessity to tithe gave her stern looks and sterner admonitions to stay chaste for Jehovah. What had begun as an affaire of the heart was now a burgeoning scandal. And so she asked my father and Miss Ellie to come for some of her delectable short bread (the secret was a drop of fine sherry in the dough) and advice.
Clarity amidst cacophony. My father at his best.
My father for close to 90 years has been known as a sympathetic friend, a ready ear, discrete, a man of strong views but greater empathy; above all fair, someone who would tell you the truth as he understood it without lording over you, making you feel inadequate, weak, a fool. As such Amanda Winterbotham wanted his opinion… and Miss Ellie wanted him to give it. Why?
First for the sake of helping dear Amanda, who was by now severely stressed and embarrassed by a very private matter now anything but. But perhaps more for my father’s sake. How’s that?
Because since moving into assisted living just a few months ago, my father has felt disoriented, depressed, despondent, regarding this residence not as a home but a holding tank for the Grim Reaper… He was in dismay, unhappy, burdened by thoughts of an eternity too fast coming, way too fast… a man who had spent his life helping others was now too focused on himself.
Did Miss Ellie, perhaps, whisper a timely word in Miss Amanda’s ear? If so, I shouldn’t be surprised for women throughout the ages have known just what to do in such situations. This is why I can see so clearly in my mind’s eye my father and Miss Ellie, proceeding slowly down the hall, stately, each with a cane and consummate dignity. Amanda’s door was open… Ellie entered first. Was there at that moment a special look that passed between the ladies? I cannot say… but my father later told me it felt good to be helpful again… and how did Mrs. Winterbotham know chocolate chip cookies with extra chocolate chips were his favorite? How indeed… But I could imagine Miss Ellie singing…
“Don’t take my arm too much/Don’t keep your hand in mind/ Your hand feels so grand in mine/ People will say we’re in love./
And so they are and do not care who knows…
About the Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today at http://www.Worldprofit.com
Author: Jeffrey LantThis author has published 572 articles so far. More info about the author is coming soon.