He’s in his mid eighties and so is she. He is English Canadian. She is German. Doing the math, they were both born during the Great Depression, and lived through the Second World War. They met at a dance following all that, and the rest is history. They raised kids who now live somewhere else, she bakes for the Grandkids, and it’s just the two of them keeping house. They are my Timex watch neighbours across the road. They work as a team, picking up leaves, and him on a lawn tractor. They had a few ins and outs with the ambulance this year, but they are still ticking just like the Timex watch.
She came over today while I was working in the yard to ask how my wife is doing. My wife is in Israel looking after her mom, and people wonder how she managed traveling in the midst of COVID worldwide and bombs falling on Gaza. They are also wondering how I am doing, baching it at home, keeping everything together and putting meals on the table while she is away. So far so good. In some ways we are like the Timex watch couple across the road only an earlier version.
They say love changes over a period of time. I’m not sure exactly what you are supposed to feel when your wife must be away for an extended stint. I am trying to be useful, and not be a baby. I have to stand in the gap while my wife is away. I do the stuff I usually do, combined with the stuff my wife usually does, and that is just how it has to be for now. We have our patterns. I am still sleeping on my side of the bed even though that doesn’t make any sense. I guess I just got used to it.
I asked my elderly neighbour how her husband is doing. He is not allowed to drive anymore but other than that he seems to have rebounded from the latest health issues. I told her, her husband seems like a nice guy. She gave me that look and said, “I think I’ll keep him.” She paused, took a breath, and continued, “At our age, you live one day at a time. You never know what’s going to be next. We work together. He asked me yesterday, what’s going to happen when one of us goes? And I told him. Don’t worry. If you go, I’ll go too.”
It makes me think of my own parents. One died and the other followed shortly thereafter. I think that’s very often how it works. One does not want to linger on without the other. I have not checked the statistics but I would be willing to bet that for old people married a long time it is quite likely that one follows the other, and it’s not likely just a thing of age and health. There is that will to live thing going on, where people who lost their significant other, give up the ghost so to speak.
It’s hard to know what goes on in the minds of old people. Like babies, they look at you and they seem to know more than they are telling. “Don’t worry, if you go, I’ll go too” sounds an awful lot like “I don’t want to live without you”. In the language of life, it also sounds pretty much like “I love you” to me.