Growing old together is an incredibly romantic notion. We smile when hearing about a couple celebrating their 40th, 50th or 60th wedding anniversary. A picture in the local newspaper presents a young, slim couple in outdated wedding attire. A second photo of a much older couple, usually shorter and plumper than the young twosome, appears next to the first snapshot.
Divorce is common, yet lots of couples manage to stay together, and happily so, for decades. Two young, attractive people meet, discover they are each other’s soul mates, fall in love and get married. Over the succeeding years, maneuvering through life’s ups and downs, celebrating each other’s successes, comforting each other when life does not go well, they build a life together.
Stealing a look into their lives, we find them preparing for an evening out one Valentine’s Day.
She sits in front of a mirror and fusses, preparing her hair and applying make-up. She used to stand, but her weak knees buckle and anyway, she now prefers to take a seat in front of a magnifying mirror to see what she is doing.
She stares into the mirror and moans, “S**t, I am getting old.”
She looks lovingly over at her life’s mate, staring at him as if she has not seen him in a long time, thinking, “Damn, he is getting old too. What the hell is happening to us?”
He sees her gazing at him and looks back at her endearingly. He says something and she answers, “WHAT?”
He repeats the sentence, speaking a little louder, “Almost ready?”
They are both losing their hearing. They adjust, unwittingly sometimes, to each other’s aging idiosyncrasies.
He pauses, then continues, “Going out to dinner sounded like a good idea sitting in the warm house, but going out in the dark and cold suddenly does not seem like fun. We better leave soon or I’m going to change my mind. Wrapped in a hoodie-footie in front of the TV sounds awfully good right now. We should have gone out to lunch.”
“I’m getting old,” she laments out loud, once again scrutinizing the face in the mirror.
“No you’re not. You look great. I hope the restaurant isn’t too crowded. We have reservations. Almost ready? By the way, have you seen my glasses?”
Ah, yes. Life is sweet.
“Look on your dresser. They’re there somewhere.”
Her looks fade. His eyesight deteriorates. He looks at her with blurred, slightly out-of-focus eyes.
Right now she would not have it any other way.
On the other hand he is not the 20-something she married. His hair is gray, with a receding hairline and growing bald spot on the top of his head. His middle is too expansive, but hers is too. Her gray hair hides behind hair dye. And she wears glasses, too. Signs of aging sneak up and pounce. The pair look like the grandparents they are.
Their energy and activity levels complement each other. She exercises sporadically, and he exercises even less.
They sing oldies songs together and have no idea who the new twenty-something celebrities are. They may have heard of them or read about the new fresh-faced superstars, but forget names quickly.
But between the two of them there is an excellent chance one remembers – eventually - whatever information they are trying to retrieve from overstuffed memory files.
Staring at the image in the mirror, she is undecided whether to give up, no longer concerned about what others think about her appearance, or continue smearing stuff on her face. There ought to be some benefits to getting old, she reasons, and firmly believes the right to say and do whatever one wants is one of them.
She runs her hand over the circles under her eyes, shakes her head, finally looks away from the mirror and declares, “OK. I’m starved. Ready?”
“I’m ready, waiting for you as always. I’m hungry too. Let’s go.”
They grab their coats and walk to the front door.
He stops, looks at her and says, “Wait, where are my keys…”