Friday, January 18, 2013

Getting Married at 86? Love is a Many Senior Thing


Wedding Bells and Hot Spells - Mom Proves Love is Ageless
I must admit it was quite a jolt when I learned my mother-in-law was getting married. Helen had only known Mike about a year. She had been living alone for over 45 years. Oh yeah, and she was 86. Mike was 79. 

"It's not a shotgun wedding, is it?" I asked my wife, Patti, attempting to lighten the mood. 
"Not now."
Shock and Awww
Hearing the news of a parent tying the knot in his or her 80s can elicit many responses. None of which are "congratulations."
We were immediately apprehensive when we heard the news in November 2010. Helen lived in Patti's hometown of Arlington, Massachusetts, a distance away from our Michigan residence. And we had only met Mike once, a few weeks before at Thanksgiving.
Who was this guy really? What were his intentions? Where did he find the energy for romance, when I'm too exhausted to pick up flowers from Kroger on my anniversary?
All questions that needed answers, now that Mike would be muscling a seat at the family get-togethers.
I snapped into action and did a Google search. Perhaps his name would pop up on the FBI site warning of Nigerian Letter fraud or a Ponzi scheme.
Nope. Nothing. No suspicious search engine hits.
Should I pursue a thorough online background check for $49.95? No, not in this age of fiscal responsibility.
And I certainly wasn't inclined to pay James Rockford $5,000 to follow Mike around just to get pictures of him drinking a senior coffee at McDonald's.
Maybe, just maybe, Mike and Helen were simply in love. But how so?
I was of the belief that love had an expiration date. Of course I'm uncertain of that exact moment. If I had to guess, I would peg it at about 70; the same age you must get a Monday through Friday pill dispenser.

Love at Last Sight
When we flew to Boston for the Christmas Eve nuptials, we were much more inquisitive of their relationship. Stories of their courtship made for blissful conversation. Hand in hand, the saga unfolded.
They met in the hallway of their senior apartment building, with innocent small talk.
"The weather is nice," Helen said.
"Sure is," Mike replied, "do you have cable?"
The exchange led to conversation - and then to coffee. The romance blossomed, as would two naive, bright-eyed teens meeting at a high school pep rally.
What finally set our worries at ease was the simple, unmistakable glow of a pair in love. They laughed. They giggled. They doted. And yes, they stared amorously into each other's eyes.
Mike, it turns out, is a kind, generous man with a wonderful sense of humor and is a perfect companion for Helen. And they headed to the altar, with our blessing.
One Wedding and a Bouquet
The wedding was scheduled for noon on Christmas Eve.
Helen called us at the Marriott at 10:30 a.m. that morning. She had forgotten to order flowers. I passed the phone to Patti, who was in the shower. Bouquets and boutonnieres were not my department.
With shampoo in her eyes, Patti called a local florist and pleaded to have an arrangement prepared, which I was volunteered to pick up in a half hour. "Wedding Impossible," right?

Thirty minutes later, as I stood at the florist, I began to realize the uniqueness of the union. The owner of the shop was touched and amazed at the age of the bride and groom. In all her years preparing arrangements, she had never heard a story quite as cute.
She glowed as she handed over the hastily made peonies and poppies. Of course, she charged full price, with an added $50 same-day rush fee.
The modest ceremony took place in their fourth floor apartment. The guest list was small and included only myself, Patti and an old friend of Mike's. But the spirit of the room was palatial and brimming with as much joy as any royal wedding.
The justice of the peace arrived. The Massachusetts sun streamed into the room. I glanced at the thermometer on the wall. It read 84 degrees.
My offer to pay $1 million dollars to crack the window fell on deaf ears.
The bride and groom looked spectacular. Helen wore a striking dress.

What was she thinking? Was this the right thing to do? Would everything work out?
Not a look of hesitation was visible - this was everything she wanted.
The groom was harder to read. Dressed dapperly in a suit, Mike stood beside his bride with a furrowed brow, waiting to declare his commitment. He was either attempting to remember his vows or wondering if he had made the right pick on the third race at Aqueduct.
Watching Mike place a ring on Helen's finger was amazing. It spoke of the timelessness of love, an emotion that showers joy to life at any age. For skeptics who believe splendor forgotten is forever lost, the moment was to be cherished.
I upped my offer to open the window to $5 million dollars.
The ceremony ended with a kiss.
Just Married 
Where would this improbable affair of the heart go from here? Well, first stop was Henrietta's Table at The Charles Hotel in Cambridge for a post-nuptial brunch.
There were no cans tied to the bumper or just married signs taped to the trunk. No horns honked. No rice was thrown.
As we walked out of the complex an elderly lady sitting on a bench noticed the couple.
"Don't you two look nice," she said.
"We just got married," Helen smiled.
"Congratulations."
It wasn't as grandiose as a sky writer announcing the marriage, but had the same impact. Within minutes, everyone in the building would know of the union.
In the back of car, the newlyweds giggled like teenagers. We heard how the other residents in their apartment gossiped about their romance.
"You know 'so and so' was trying to get Mike," Helen said, "He was the only eligible bachelor in the complex."
"I never noticed her," Mike replied slyly, knowing exactly what to say on his wedding day.

Happily Ever Laughter
On the drive, we kidded Mike about his signature drink, a Manhattan with ice on the side, which he ordered at every meal without fail. We joked about a parking ticket Helen was recently gifted by Boston's finest.
"I only double parked for a minute," Helen said defensively, "shame on them."
In between stories, my three passengers barked different directions toward our restaurant destination.
"Go left. Go right. No straight!"
"Who needs a GPS?" I wondered, "When I'm driving with three human TripTiks."
And thus the memories gathered of a wedding day unlike most others.
At the restaurant, a picturesque venue near Harvard Square, the staff greeted us excitedly, as Patti had informed them of the occasion. Everyone from the hostess to the manager showed genuine elation.
As the buzz spread around the restaurant, we were showered with smiles and well wishes from other diners. The sight of a senior couple who just got married will melt a heart quicker than a kitten playing with yarn on YouTube.
Mike ordered his Manhattan. The meal was delicious. Patti presented a gift.
From my perspective, it was the best post-wedding celebration imaginable. There was no cake being smashed into anyone's face. There was no Chicken Dance. There was no mad scramble for the bridal bouquet.
By 4 p.m. the party winded down. Exhausted, we drove back to the apartment. On the way we stopped so Helen could pick up some lottery tickets. Maybe this day would turn out to be even luckier.
The conversation in the car turned to the future. Mike and Helen were already discussing travel plans.
"Where were you thinking about going?" I asked.
"Ireland," Helen replied.
Sure enough, the following summer the couple packed their bags and headed to the Emerald Isle. The trip was unique, as you can imagine. But, I'll save those details for another time.




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