In this era of Vegas’ drive-thru weddings, and celebrity split-ups, it’s easy to become cynical. Is there such a thing as genuine, true-blue, honest-to-goodness, cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die Love?
I decided to do some research on the subject of love, recently. My beloved soul mate has been dead for four years, now, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to look around a bit. So I did something I’ve never done before…I tried the modern alternative to blind dating. I got on a Christian Singles’ website.
What an education I received!
Within hours, I found myself swept along the internet highway—an incredibly busy expressway, flowing with non-stop traffic day and night. I encountered drive-by flirtations and shared brief conversations in various chat-rooms along the way…with multitudes of cyberspace suitors all vying for my attention. It was exciting…embarrassing…confusing. I felt like a celebrity—the new girl on the block. I’ve never had so many men wanting to talk to me in my life!
But soon I found myself overwhelmed by this modern approach to love. My head was spinning with the endless buzz of chat-rooms, and I quickly grew weary of it altogether. I longed to see an example of old-fashioned love—the kind that grows under Magnolia trees and along shady lanes. I left the internet superhighway and went looking for evidences of genuine love elsewhere. I did some sleuthing, you could say.
To my surprise, I discovered romance and love blooming in a most unexpected place, this week…I found it in the nursing home, actually. It had been there all along, of course; I just hadn’t paid attention.
They sit side-by-side in their wheelchairs, day after day—Josephine and Arvin—the Love Birds. Every time I step through the doors of the Home, I see them sitting there in the big front room, always together. They never seem to argue or disagree. They talk quietly, or watch the huge flat screen T.V. or just sit in companionable silence—no need for words. They obviously feel that way about one another. Soul mates, forever.
I asked Josephine about it as I passed by, today.
She nodded and smiled. “Yes—we’re soul mates,” she said, glancing sideways at her companion.
“Are you and Arvin married?”
“No, we found each other here,” she said. “I’m a widow…”
“…And I’m a professional bachelor,” Arvin added. “Never been married.”
I laughed. How ironic, yet how typical of a lot of men…Men who never find their soul mates till they’re sitting in a crowded, unromantic nursing home.
“Better late than never,” I said.
They smiled. The two of them looked so cozy and content, sitting in their wheelchairs. They were surrounded by piles of slick magazines on nearby coffee tables. Celebrity-type magazines that said things like: “Love…How to find it, and make it last.”
Right. Hollywood has nothing on Josephine and Arvin.
Bemused, I bid them good-bye and moved on down the hallway of the nursing home to Room 313. “Mr. Austin…” I said to the sleepy old man in the recliner. “Tell me something about love…?”
Albert Austin, the King of the River Bluff, looked up at me and blinked. He thought for a moment. “Well, Happy,” he said to me. “A woman brings joy to a man’s heart, and he brings joy to hers.” The old man heaved a sigh and shut his eyes.
I leaned forward. “Mr. Austin,” I said. “I have just one question, then I’ll let you sleep. Is it true that men never really grow up?…That they are always boys at heart?
The wise old eyes opened. “66 years…” Mr. Austin said, “That’s when men start to grow up, because they realize it’s about over.” He paused. “By the time a man starts to wise up about life, and learn how to make himself and his woman happy…it’s too late.”
“Too late for what?”
“Oh, you know…” he said with a slow smile.
“Mr. Austin!” I said. “You’re almost 90 years old. Don’t men ever stop thinking about such things?”
“No,” he said, “And men never really grow up, either. Not even at my age. ”
Indeed. I believe him…I do.
Males are full of adventure and bounce from babyhood—as wild as young goats playing in the pasture. Girls are naturally more demure. There are baby dolls to be tended, and tea sets to arrange.
“You be the Daddy, and I’ll be the Mom, okay?” the girl says to the boy. He doesn’t hear. Her monologue gets louder. Stop-jumpin’-‘round-and-be-a good-Honey-to-me. Can’t you-be-a-good-Dad-to-these-babies? What’sa-matter-with-you!
Human beings can’t help themselves. The stage for conflict has been set long before birth. Couples will spend the rest of their days fighting about it. That is—if they don’t wise up.
Valentine’s Day rolls around each year. We grown-up little girls look longingly at the grown-up little boys. But they are still busy making noise and racing about seeking adventure. They want us to join them in their play. But we are busy with our own agendas. We have the table laid out with our tea sets and candles and flowers. The fireplace is crackling. Why can’t these boys stop racing around long enough to romance us? What’sa matter with them, anyway?
What’sa matter, indeed!
These boys aren’t going to change, ladies. They are the way the good Lord made them to be. Energetic. Easily distracted. By the time boys grow up enough to stop racing about, they are crotchety old men in rocking chairs. And what fun are they, then?
Our only real choice is clear. We must join them in their play. We must put away our tea sets and candles, and embark with them on their search for Never-Never Land….
It can be a rather wonderful journey, believe it or not.
Racing down the Missouri in a Jon boat, feeling the spray against your face and the wind in your hair. Driving the shady lanes and backroads. Hiking the trails, and pausing to watch a glorious sunset. Sitting by a campfire, and staring into the dancing flames.
There’s nothing more romantic than seeing a huge golden moon peek above the horizon. But a grown-up little girl seldom sees such a wondrous sight. She is in the stuffy house, arranging make-believe romance on the dining room table, waiting for her grown-up boy to join her by the crackling fireplace. She stands there, tapping her toe impatiently—waiting for her Peter Pan to come inside and join her.
Outdoors, the grown-up boy stands gazing in awe at the rising moon…a great luminous ship that’s ready to transport him to Never-Never Land along with his loving Wendy.
But somehow, Peter Pan and Wendy never learn to meet each others’ needs, and so the Battle of the Sexes goes on…and on and on. The lovers make each other walk the plank day after day. There are verbal sword fights. Jealousies arise and circle about their heads like a sprightly Tinkerbell. And all the while, the noisy clock inside of their marital Crocodile ticks off the final moments of their discontented lives.
What is it about humans that make us yearn for companionship and romance? Why do people spend their entire lives looking for a soul mate—praying for the perfect companion—only to die embittered and alone…marooned on an island of heartbreak—separated from love by miles of tangled emotions and debris. Beached relationships. Shipwrecked lives. Forever lost in a strange Never-Never Land.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about such matters as we approach Valentine’s Day…I really have. And you know, my dear readers…I’ve come to one conclusion. After my long and tedious search for answers, my conclusion is this: I dunno, folks. I dunno.
I guess I’ll just have to go back and talk to Josephine and Arvin, and wise
Mr. Austin. Somehow, I think the old timers have the answers. It may have taken them three-quarters of a century to get there…but at least they’ve arrived.
Just think. I only have another quarter century to go….