My 89-year-old aunt Jean lives in an active retirement community, and I always look forward to hearing about the romances that develop among the residents. When Joe, a 73-year-old retired pharmacist moved in and started courting Virginia, an elegant woman 17 years his senior, both of their families were aghast. Virginia’s daughters were concerned that Joe was a gold digger, and Joe’s family was certain he would end up being a caregiver again.
Ignoring the raised eyebrows of fellow residents and their children’s warnings, Joe and Virginia fell head over heels in love. They frequented a local bakery every Saturday morning where they ate scones, drank coffee and enjoyed listening to a live jazz trio. They got dressed up and went out for dinner two or three times a week, and they often held hands when they walked down the hall together. Their romance was enjoyed vicariously by my aunt Jean and the other residents who weren’t too jealous to be happy for them.
Everyone expected Virginia would die first, but that’s not the way it happened. Four years after they met, Joe suffered a debilitating stroke and had to be moved into a nursing facility where he never regained consciousness.
Virginia lived for two years after Joe died, but her spark and enthusiasm for life never returned.
Why two people are attracted to one another is a mystery, but one thing is certain: We never age out of the desire for love, intimacy and companionship.
It’s impossible to know if Virginia’s children regretted not inviting Joe to their family gatherings, or if Joe’s kids ever got over their embarrassment about their father’s late-life romance. The one thing I do know for certain is that a once-in-a-lifetime love doesn’t always develop in our twenties or thirties. I believe Virginia and Joe were very lucky, and I would bet anything that the only regret they had about their time together was that it simply ended too soon.
Wishing you joy and love on Valentine’s Day!
Elaine K. Sanchez is a caregiver speaker and the author of the unflinchingly honest and uproariously funny book, “Letters from Madelyn, Chronicles of a Caregiver.” She is the co-founder of CaregiverHelp.com, an online program that helps family and professional caregivers cope with the emotional stress of caregiving, and she writes the blog "Caregiver Help Word of the Day."