Jane Martin believes in love, but not the wild and impetuous, Romeo-and-Juliet kind of love. She learned through her father that "old love" can be just as sweet.
The young believe in young love, the Romeo and Juliet kind of love—it’s all wild and impetuous, skyrockets and roller coaster rides. But, I believe in old love. I learned about it from my father.
At eighty-eight, Dad moved to Wilmington, Delaware, to be near me after living his life in New York City. I drove him to his interview at the retirement community where he would live. It had the same feel as the interview I went to when my daughter started preschool. My daughter’s session covered sharing and getting along with others. My father’s interview covered the same territory, but then the social worker mentioned his status as a single male with hair and a bit of money. “Now you know, Mrs. Martin, your father will be quite popular with the ladies. Trust me on this,” she winked at me, “the casserole squad will be knocking on his door.”
After I settled my father into his new apartment, I left him in his favorite chair with a cup of coffee. I felt the same way I felt the day I dropped my daughter off on her first day of school—a little guilty, a little worried, and a little weepy. Would he be okay? This would be the first time in his life he would live alone.
Two days later, he called me, the delight in his voice apparent, and bragged, “At the rate I’m going, I may never have to cook dinner for myself.”
There was one lady, though, who conspicuously did not bring a casserole. He noticed her. She made him come to her, and he did. He said she wasn’t like the other ones; she had spunk. About two weeks later, Dad called me and asked me to drive him to a restaurant in town. I said, “Do you want me to go to dinner with you?”
He said, “No, I just need a ride.”
I showed up at the entrance to his building, and he was standing there with a woman. They were all dressed up. Instead of sitting with me in the front seat, he climbed into the back seat. When I stopped at a red light, I looked in the rearview mirror and saw my father’s hand inch across the seat to take hers.
Over the weeks and months that followed, I watched two people in the late autumn of their lives fall in love with the same dizzying skyrockets and roller coaster rides as two teenagers. Old love has all of the same ups and downs, including possible family interference, but with a greater risk of loss. Old love is fragile, and time is merciless.
After four years together, spending every day together, eating their meals together, and traveling together, my father died suddenly when an aneurism burst in his abdomen.
It has been five years since my father’s death. I loved watching him fall in love, be in love, and have a companion at that time of his life. I still see his friend, and she is now my friend. I learned from them that it is not easy to be old, and old hearts can break. I am in awe at how brave they were to risk falling in love with winter coming on.
When she is not working on her first novel, Jane R. Martin serves as an agent and marketer for a string quartet. Her loves are music, reading, desktop publishing, and her sheltie, Izzie. Ms. Martin lives in Wilmington, Delaware.
independently produced by Dan Gediman for This I Believe, Inc.