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Monday, February 1, 2010

Love in the Late Afternoon by Zoe Tummillo

Is there a word with more semantic dynamite than “love”? … more potential for misunderstanding? … more vulnerable to distortion? … more subject to emotional debate? Maybe, but I doubt it!

Love. Who cannot remember being in it, longing for it, missing it, regretting it, doubting it, losing it or just plain wondering about it?

It would be easy to drift into stories about romantic love -- the little things one keeps at the back of the drawer, memories or regrets that can make you cry, even after decades. Or tragic love -- the lost child, lover, friend, spouse, beloved pet. Regrets as well as secret smiles -- all easy material for writers.

But this one is about a time of love that begs a clearer, louder voice, and often doesn’t have one: Love in the late afternoon. What does it look like, and what are its many faces?

I’ve been searching my memory, and asking peers and elders about the very sensitive subject of love in its various guises, much later in life. There were smiles, wisecracks, nostalgic ramblings, and far off gazing – seemingly in search of a way to explain what love’s journey is for them, now. I appreciated their trust.

Many have the fun of enjoying a different twist on love with grandchildren. It can be great, especially when you get to hand them back over to their parents! It’s fun to see your children doing stuff they resented when we were rearing them, but which they now embrace! Love by imitation?

However, grandparents occasionally fall heir to a second round, and wind up rearing their children’s children. That particular manifestation of love is a grueling hardship for some elders; and a joy taken in stride, for others. Tested love.

Then there’s that second-chance-love (or third?) We wonder if it will come around again. The marriage that just did not last, or the death of a spouse, and there you are where you didn’t plan to be. And, sometimes as the song said, love may be better the second time around! Smarter love?

There was an ad on TV a while ago that had a young couple and an older couple walking on a path in opposite directions. They pass, and the young woman glances back -- the elders are walking close, holding hands. It is clear it warms her, and she wishes to still be in love when she grows old. Lasting love … So, what about that? What are the chances?

I have been amused at times noticing youngsters snicker and giggle as they notice a grey-haired couple (full complement of wrinkles, knobby knuckles, canes, limps, etc.) holding hands or kissing. Good grief! What are they doing acting like that! It seems impossible to kids that romantic let alone physical love could exist that late in life! How in the world can they accomplish – well, you know. They can hardly walk or stand up straight! Innovative love; that’s how! (They’ll catch on, someday!)

Late love is all around us! I saw it just the other day in Mary Jane’s eyes, when she looked across the table as Bob adjusted his oxygen. And again, in a doctor’s waiting room, an old man lifted his wife’s shaking hand and kissed it. On a park bench, a frail old lady stroked a scrawny cat and told it stories about “back then” when she had other cats. Unselfish love …

Love doesn’t just go away because bodies and minds start to wear down and scream at us at “inconvenient moments.” It’s just a little tougher to hang on to that special warmth from a fire that has been stoked for 50 or 60 years!

But, you know, compared to some of the stuff that comes along at our ages, love’s a piece of cake! Crank up the gyri, and use your imagination!

Zoë Tummillo is a Business & Marketing Consultant/Trainer/Commercial Writer, dba COMMUNICATION CONCEPTS, in private practice since 1974. In addition to Commercial work, she writes “Senior Momentum: A Series of Situations”; and essay memoirs of growing up first generation Italian American: “Pieces of My Path”. To contact her -- email: Phone:707-869-1726