Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ah, young love --- at 81

Imagine the possibilities. What could a storyteller like myself make of it? Former high-school sweethearts, Jack and Betty, are eighty-one years old and about to meet again for the first time in sixty two years. Months of letters, emails, and phone calls have fanned old feelings, setting the stage for a much anticipated reunion. Now, as we watch, Jack prepares for that moment of truth.

Does it sound like we’ve moved beyond our October borders? Eighty-one has the ring of November, doesn’t it? But no matter the label, Jack is awash in anxious questions. Without knowing what to expect he has arranged to see her again. Now, as his plane descends to the airport where they are to meet, his questions are growing more urgent by the second. What will she look like? Will he even recognize her? What will she think when she sees the “him” he has become. 

It must be a bit disorienting at his age---that unlikely revival of his schoolboy dreams. As silly as it sounds, he is caught up in a new and hopeful “geriatric adolescence.” As you watch the video I’ve linked at the end of this post the results may strike you as funny. That’s okay. You’ll notice that Jack too sees the humor in his dilemma. Yet there is no hiding the deep and powerful feelings behind his embarrassed chuckles. From beginning to end his story is a testament to late-life love, with a dose of teenage anxiety thrown in for good measure. Of course, those feelings may be over-hopeful---but there is no doubting their reality.

Truth in advertising---I used this clip in a posting a year or so ago. Then, just a few days ago, as I revisited one of my stories I was reminded of Jack’s adventure. It struck me as a perfect illustration of October Bold---the willingness to take a chance when the calendar seems to say it is too late.

You can see the questions on the face of our anxious “video hero” as he takes the next timid steps toward their reunion---fueled by still-powerful recollections of a much earlier time. Yet, at the same time he is old enough to realize that every stage of life brings hardship and disappointment. For October folks those obstacles come in many forms---infirmity, financial setbacks, the painful loss of a loved one, even relational concerns. Though Jack’s limitations are there to be seen, you can tell that he is counting on a new love to see him through. 

Most of us have known the healing power of loving affirmation. We understand how much we need someone’s special caring when we are tested. That is true at any time of life, but especially in our October Years. With its unique challenges, there is no other time of life when the surrounding support of love is more important. 

And with that caring support comes its working partner. You can hear it in Jack’s story. Whether at seventeen or seventy, those love feelings nurture hope. Or is it hope that nurtures love? Either way the two go hand in hand---reinforcing each other, impacting what we feel, shaping our perception of what is possible. It’s a reality that I try to capture in my stories---the affirming effects of caring and hope, and how they enable us to face October and beyond.

For the lucky ones among us it’s always been that way---though of course husbands and wives at sixty or seventy are very different persons than they were at twenty or twenty-five. (I think I hear Roma cheering about that.) But after a lifetime together we scarcely notice those changes. Why would we? We have made that journey together. We remember those years, and all those changes, through the prism of love.

So, you might ask, what is it that has an old fossil like me raving about such kid’s stuff? After all, that heady, hormone-driven time of my life was long ago. Right? Take a couple minutes to watch this clip. Put yourself in Jack’s shoes. Realize that while some things have changed, the overriding need to care about each other remains. By the end of their story you can tell both he and Betty understand that.

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