I have witnessed enduring romance, timeless tenderness, eternal passion, and yes, even unceasing lust, in my life and times. I am especially honored by my recollections of one very special elderly couple.
For several years, I worked in the home of a local elderly couple as a private nurse. I was often staying there over night. They asked me to spend my “work” nights in a cozy room, just across the hallway from their extra-large, shared bedroom suite. I had a handy-dandy “baby” monitor by my bed. My job there at night, was to assist the elderly gentleman during the night with his personal care needs and to help the little woman with her own needs, should any arise before dawn. Each night, the short, round, little man was tucked cozily into his full-sized bed on one side of the large room, with his adult diaper on and his oxygen going full blast. He was always happy, always singing me a song before I went to my room for the night, usually a Tony Bennet selection, and always performed with powerful perfection. The short, round, little woman was cozy as well, ensconced in her matching full-sized bed, only a few feet away from her happy, crooner husband. She was ever cheerful, always kind, night after night, year after year.
They both realized that I could hear every breath and every word muttered in their room. Each night, there was the same conversation, mostly, light and airy pillow talk between the two of them, followed by, “I love you darling, I love you too” then, there were more “I love you darlings, and, I love you too’s” Sometimes, he would sing to her until she slept, or they would share happy memories of their children and grandchildren, then, they would giggle in unison from their perspective beds. Sometimes, she would pad across the room and kiss his face or his hands and perhaps gently rub his back for a few moments. He had a habit of caressing her cheek for long tender moments.
In my room across the hallway, I would sometimes silently shed tears, big fat tears, that would fall on the book that I was reading and leave salty stains. I wondered if the great-grandchildren would see those stains one day, and wonder at them? The books I read were from their personal library. I would cry because I knew that his time on earth was short, and I fretted over her coming sorrow. Other times, I would smile to myself and marvel at the ever lasting romance that they shared, at the chemistry that was so evident, even though the flesh, the joints, the bones, the organs, were tired and nearly worn out by now.
I sometimes worked day shift as well, and their behavior was much the same during the day time. I would feed him at the table and she would eat her food by his side and cluck over how much or how little he was eating or not eating, he always smiled at her when she did this. He would break out in song sometimes, and she would run to the piano and play for him. Sometimes, they would turn their special music on, and she would dance and push his wheel chair in little zig zags and circles across the room, he would clap his hands and his face would be as pink as a baby boys face. At those times, they didn’t see me at all, they didn’t feel me on this planet. They were in love and there WAS also lust between them, any fool could see this and feel this, it was as real and as raw as it was when they married, back in 1939.
Those were the times when I would wander to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, and stay in there, until the singing, the dancing and the clapping ceased.
They had been very successful financially, they were well-known, hard-working business owners in town. They were both orphaned as toddlers. They were both from poor immigrant families, they had worked their way to the top in every way. They were well-respected, and highly honored, long time members in good standing of a snooty “country club” that had turned them down repeatedly when they had first applied. (due only to their middle eastern heritage) They had generously supported the local symphony for many years, as they both loved music so dearly. Their large comfortable home was affectionately referred to as the local “United Nations” as they hosted guests from all over the world regularly in their more public days. Their phone rang constantly with well wishers and loving friends, inquiring as to their health and bell being. Their door was open to any and all, even a local homeless woman was welcomed in their home regularly and invited to eat for free at their business, any time the doors were open.
I thought them to be the only perfect family that I had ever known. Their children/grandchildren/greats, were all succesful and caring, their calls and visits came often. However, I knew that no family was ever THAT perfect, so, one day, after I had known them for a couple of years, in a moment of quiet intimacy between the wife and I, I asked her this question.
“Lilly, tell me, he seems like the perfect man, perfect father, perfect husband, but, was he?” “Was he a work- a-holic who never watched even one of his sons little league games, or was he an abusive drunk until he got sober thirty years ago, or did he cheat on you when he was young and agile?” “Was it you, were you a bitter, neglected, shop-a-holic wife, or a hungry, unfulfilled wife with a wandering eye?” “Were you addicted to pills, or any other deviant thing that is far short of who you both are today?”
The Beautiful, little round woman, looked at me with earnest sable eyes and smiled. “No darling, none of those things, the man never missed one little league game or even a scout meeting, boy or girl, and oh, how he has loved me, she shivered and rolled her eyes. She went on, “I too, was a loving, happy, hard-working wife and mother who did an awfully lot of volunteer work for cancer research once the children were older and I had retired from the family business.” (She had survived two bouts with cancer and three strokes in her life) “No, there are no dark secrets, no skeletons in the closet, no bitterness, we just worked, played, and loved each other.” “We adored those three babies that we had, loved them with all of our hearts, but, we never put the children above our shared love, we made one another our first priority, always, and it has worked out fine, don’t you think?” She smiled a radiant smile then, and I bowed my foolish, unbelieving head, and said “yes ma’am, it has indeed.” (they were married sixty-six years at the time of his passing, she is still alive and still quite joyful, she is still living at home at the time of this writing, she is around age 96 now, she is spoiled and adored, and much beloved by her doting family. Last year in fact, I was her traveling companion on a five generational family vacation)