Enough already! I'm the one who claims to promote ‘thriving in late-life.’ Yet the last few posts have concentrated on my own ‘unthriving.’ It is time for a change, to focus on something more upbeat, yet just as age-appropriate. With that in mind I’ve dusted off an earlier post that I loved the first time around. Surprise---I still do.
Just 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 himself for that moment of truth.
Sounds like something beyond October, doesn’t it? Eighty-one has the ring of November. But no matter the label, our friend Jack is awash in anxious ‘schoolboy’ feelings, facing questions he has not asked, or answered, in a very long time.
I have made the point before. The often-timid fellows who inhabit the pages of my Tanner Chronicle stories are not the torn-shirt, Alpha Males you see on the cover of supermarket paperbacks. In a moment, when you meet Jack, you will know what I mean.
In any case, as his plane descends to the airport where he and Betty are to meet, those questions are growing more urgent by the second. What will she look like? Will he even recognize her? And what will she think when she sees the “him” he has become?
It must be a bit disorienting at that age---the unlikely revival of schoolboy dreams. As silly as it sounds, Jack is caught up in a new and hopeful ‘geriatric adolescence.’ As you watch the video I’ve linked to the end of this post the results may strike you as funny. That’s okay. You’ll notice that he 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 of his may be over-hopeful---but there is no doubting their reality.
Truth in tell---when I used this clip in a post a couple years ago I was just a kid myself---78 going on 79. Now, with 81 lurking just around the corner, making me nearly as old as Jack and Betty, I am better able to empathize with their situation. In a word, I can ‘relate.‘ Matter of fact, they strike me as a perfect illustration of October Boldness, the willingness to take a chance when the calendar seems to say it is too late. (Apparently that works in November too.)
You can see the questions on the face of our anxious ‘video hero’ as he takes the next timid steps (actually he is in a wheelchair) toward their reunion---fueled by still-powerful recollections of a much earlier time. Sure, he is old enough to realize that every stage of life brings hardship and disappointment. For October and November folks those obstacles come in many forms---infirmity, the painful loss of a loved one, financial setbacks, even relational concerns. Still, though Jack’s limitations are there to be seen, you can tell that he is counting on new, but long-familiar feelings 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 late-life. With its unique challenges, there is no other time of life when the enabling support of love and caring is more important.
And with that caring support comes its working partner---‘Hope’---the necessary catalyst that makes it all happen. You can hear that in Jack’s story. Whether at eighteen or eighty one, it is those feelings of love that nurtures hope. Or is it hope that nurtures love? Either way the two go hand in hand---reinforcing each other, impacting what we feel and 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 keep Becoming in October and beyond.
For the lucky ones among us it’s always been that way---though of course husbands and wives at seventy or eighty are very different persons than they were at twenty or twenty-five. (I think I hear Roma shouting her agreement.) But after a lifetime together we scarcely notice those changes. Why would we? We have made that journey together. More importantly, we remember those years (as well as we remember anything these days) and all those changes through the prism of love.
So, you might ask, what is it that has an old fossil like me carrying on about that sort of kid’s stuff? After all, it was a long time ago---those heady, hormone-driven years. Right?
So, you might ask, what is it that has an old fossil like me carrying on about that sort of kid’s stuff? After all, it was a long time ago---those heady, hormone-driven years. Right? I hope you will take a couple minutes to watch THIS CLIP. Put yourself in Jack or Betty’s shoes. Realize that as much as some things have changed, the overriding need to care about each other remains. By the end of their story you can tell that both of them understand that.
Finally, if it seems to you this is a message that deserves to be passed on to others, I hope you will consider forwarding it to those who might enjoy hearing the truth to be found in Jack's story.