There's an ancient curse.
I'd say where it comes from, but I don't care to be smeared as a racing enthusiast.
It goes, "May you live in interesting times."
2020 was a pretty interesting year, ending with the fear of its continuation into 2021. As I write this, November's presidential election still hasn't been determined. What's now called Fake News Media has declared Joe Biden president-elect, but President Trump has yet to concede. I'm sure it will all be settled by the time this is published.
Whatever its outcome, whoever is declared the winner, I hope the hard times are behind us. I hope we can live together in peace, with respect and dignity for all. However, since that's never happened before-remember Cain and Abel?-I doubt it will happen now. Nothing wrong with hoping, though.
Most of us live happy lives. Some filled with friends and family, others content living their lives in quiet seclusion. Before I married my second wife, it was my intention to move to Alaska when I retired. The solitude of the wilderness appealed to me, but you know what appeals to me even more now?
I'm lucky in that regard.
Others… not so much.
My mother died a few years back, but I know my father still grieves for her. He's elderly and suffers from the onset of Alzheimer's, maybe Dementia, but even on his bad days he always remembers her.
One evening, my wife waved me over to the hallway just outside of his bedroom. After my mother's passing, my father moved into the small guest house we have in the front of our property, but times change and so does the human body as it ages. Let's just say the time came for him to move into the main house. We sleep better that way.
"Are you spying on my father?" I teased her.
She put a shushing finger to her lips.
I snuck over, using whatever stealth abilities I learned watching Magnum PI. From our angle, we could peek into my father's room.
"I was walking by his bedroom last night," she whispered. "I wasn't spying."
My father was getting ready for bed. Like me, he sleeps on the left side of the bed, but I saw him walk over to the right. There, I saw him gently pull back the covers for a wife who had long since passed.
My wife was quietly sobbing.
"That is so sweet," she said.
I kept quiet. I was touched, too. Plus, if I said the wrong thing, which I usually do, I might get an elbow to the ribs, and my wife has very sharp elbows.
"How long do you think he's been doing that?" she asked me.
I shrugged, not trusting myself to speak.
If, for whatever reason, I found myself single again, I don't think I'd fuss with another relationship, but that's just me. Most people are wired for what comedian Paul Reiser calls couplehood.
My friend Tom Blake writes for the San Clemente Times. We've never met in person, but I've come to know him through his column On Life & Love After 50. He also writes a weekly newsletter which I receive every Friday via email.
In a recent column on adversity, Tom told the story of visiting his elderly mother one Christmas and receiving a phone call from his wife of six years informing him that she was leaving. He was five-hundred miles away at the time, giving his wife ample opportunity to pack up the furniture she wanted and abscond to whereabouts unknown.
Another friend of mine tells a similar story. He was selling his car and took a potential buyer to his house in the middle of the day to see it. When he got there, he discovered his wife in the process of moving out. "I was happily married for seven years," was how he explained it. "Unfortunately, she had only been happily married for three."
A coworker of mine caught his wife cheating on him with an old boyfriend. She had reconnected with him through Facebook. They had young children, so my coworker gave her a choice: her boyfriend or her marriage. She chose her boyfriend. Sadly, before either of them could take the next step, his wife died in a tragic car accident. Remembering the nastiness that was MY divorce, I thought to myself, "Some guys have all the luck."
When an uncle of mine left his wife, he told her he was going out for a pack of cigarettes.
"But you don't smoke!"
When she died of cancer a few years later, he cried like a baby.
Until I read Tom's column, it never occurred to me that people were out there searching for a final chance at couplehood. Who knew that in the twilight of our lives we'd still be at a loss when it comes to dicipering the nuances of love?
Fortunately, Tom found it with Greta, his partner of 23 years. Luckily, I was given a second chance as well, but there are still too many lonely souls out there searching… searching.…
Tom would probably shrug it off, but he does an important job. He helps us negotiate the tightrope we all walk between a full heart and an empty bed.
It must be nice to live a life knowing you've helped so many people.