This is not my typical kind of story, but if you’ve followed me long enough, you know I like to try new things.
I took Cecil’s wrinkled hand when he knelt in front of me, descending slowly onto arthritic knees. I saw the pain in his face and almost stopped him but I knew it was important to him.
I said yes, of course. When you date a septuagenarian, it’s for life, if only because there’s not much of it left.
For him, at least.
We honeymooned in Tahiti. I would have loved to go snorkeling together, but it wasn’t really an option, not after his bypass surgery three years before. So we spend a lot of time sitting on the beach, holding hands until he drifted off to sleep. It was nice; peaceful.
My best friend Cheryl visited me a week after we got back. We sat by the pool behind Cecil’s mansion—now mine too—and sipped drinks.
“What are you planning on doing after?” Cheryl asked.
“After what?” I asked absently. I was thinking of what to make for dinner.
“You know . . . after your marriage.”
I stared at her, shocked she would say such a thing. “I haven’t thought about it,” I said. “Geez, I just got married two weeks ago and I’m supposed to be thinking beyond it?”
“It wouldn’t hurt,” Cheryl said, sitting up. “Listen, you’re not going to grow old together. He started doing that when you were in university. You can’t tell me you married him without a plan, that you would have married him if he’d been poor.”
Probably not, I had to admit, but to say that seemed to cheapen our marriage. I married him because I loved him. Didn’t I?
“I love him,” I said. Cheryl nodded, with skeptical eyes.
I realized soon enough how naïve I had been. Cheryl had been the most candid, but everyone I knew seemed to take it for granted that I was a gold digger, just out for Cecil’s money. “Of course, of course,” they would reassure me, smoothing back the social veneer when I protested at their hints and insinuations.
Five years later, I sat by Cecil as he lay in the hospital bed. IV lines invaded the hand that had so lovingly held mine, oxygen tubes filled the nose that had brushed my cheek when he kissed me. I gripped his hand and felt our life slipping away.
“My dear,” he said, opening his eyes. I kissed his hand, accidentally wetting it with my tears.
“Don’t leave me,” I said.
He closed his eyes again and smiled faintly. “Thank you. Thank you for sharing the last few years of my life with me. My estate is all yours. Go be free and live well.”
“I don’t want your money, I want you,” I said. “I never wanted anything but you. Believe me, please!”
The smile remained on his lips, but he slipped away before he could answer, and I was left alone.
I wanted to give all his money away, just to silence the snide comments and knowing looks. I gave away all that I could afford, making the gossips add ‘stupid’ to ‘gold digger.’
I don’t care anymore. When I visit his gravestone, the accusing voices all fade away and it’s just the two of us again, sitting on the beach together in Tahiti, happy.
October 24th, 2014 at 11:32 am
This is beautiful, David. It makes me think about my 20s, actually. I worked at the audio-visual desk in a public library, and two septuagenarians had the hots for me like you wouldn’t believe. One asked me to marry him at least once a week (and was as serious as hell about it). The other lost his wife after I met him and managed to trick me into a date. Naive little me thought he wanted to have dinner at his home with his daughter and family. No, no. He arrived at the designated time wearing his dress blues, now faded to purple, ready to take me to dinner and a movie. I’m not sure which moment of the evening was more awkward–the moment over dinner when I realized he fought in the platoon with my grandfather during WWII, the time he reached to caress my hand during the movie, or the attempted goodnight kiss beneath a streetlight in the library parking lot. Plenty of folks said I should just marry one of those gentlemen for the money, but Viagra had already hit the market and . . . Well, you know.
October 24th, 2014 at 8:05 pm
Wow, MG, I didn’t realize that that much of the story was based on reality. That would be rather awkward. Flattering, I’m sure, but that’s about it.
October 25th, 2014 at 11:48 pm
Someday soon I’ll have to write about my other geriatric suitor–the one who walked into the library with a friend and introduced him to me as “The person who will be the best man at our wedding.” That fellow, an 80-year-old African American from Arkansas, was a colorful character who had babysat for Bill and Roger Clinton back in the day. Fortunately, I had the good sense not to end up on a date with him.
October 27th, 2014 at 9:18 pm
He sounds like a colorful character. You’d probably have some good stories out of it, but yes, maybe best not to encourage him. 🙂
October 24th, 2014 at 11:40 am
Reblogged this on momentarylapseofsanity.
October 24th, 2014 at 12:26 pm
OH I LOVE THIS…You should send it somewhere. It’s so poignant. I remember years ago going to a Xmas party and James Coburn, the Our Man Flint, actor was there. He had just married a young, stunning girl that could have been his granddaughter.
He liked to just look at her…you could see how her mere presence made him so happy. I’ll always remember being pleased for him…he died a couple years later.
I really, really love this…you got me.
October 24th, 2014 at 8:06 pm
Thank you so much, Susannah. Maybe I will send it somewhere. I’ve been realizing I need to send out more stories. It’s just that it takes time and I already don’t seem to have enough. But I really should.
October 25th, 2014 at 5:00 am
right foot…left foot…just do one a week…start there. It’s hard because many people don’t even bother to answer…of course you may not have that experience being the stellar writer you are…but it’s good practice to submit. Have you ever read Stephen King’s book on writing? He talks about it. It’s great.
October 27th, 2014 at 9:30 pm
I have his book, On Writing. It’s a great book with some good advice in it. Actually, I should pull it out and read it again.
October 28th, 2014 at 4:15 am
I just read the writing part again…it’s so great what he says.
October 25th, 2014 at 7:53 am
October 25th, 2014 at 7:54 am
someone sent both links to me…I’ve been submitting with no takers, but it feels good to throw my hat in the ring 🙂
October 27th, 2014 at 9:29 pm
Thank you for the links. I will look into them. Honestly, I think it’s just laziness sometimes. I have had some publishing success, although the payout is paltry so it’s really only good for building a portfolio. I would love to have something published in the New Yorker or some similar magazine, but I should probably start smaller. 🙂
October 24th, 2014 at 5:20 pm
A very moving, beautiful love story, minus the $$$$ in it that would have cheapened it like so many real life ‘love’ story romances when there is a great deal of age difference. Refreshing and delightful. I like these kind best, David. 🙂
October 24th, 2014 at 8:07 pm
Thanks, Joyce. It came to the me on the spur of the moment and I wanted to make it about a real relationship, even if from the outside, it looked fake to cynical eyes. I’m glad you liked it.
October 25th, 2014 at 9:45 am
it is not quite rare for women to fall for men old as their grandparents, shrinks have a term for that, father fixation or something.
October 27th, 2014 at 9:20 pm
There is that aspect to it and it’s probably more common than young men dating old women. Of course, for most women, they probably do it just for the money, so I wanted to write a story where that wasn’t the case.
October 29th, 2014 at 2:49 am
well, in India too many women marry men old enough to be their father, and ultimately learn to love them… there is a joke in India in which they say that an old man’s third wife (who certainly is either teenager or a little older) is always super pampered 🙂
Buddhe kee teesri beewi.
October 29th, 2014 at 9:54 pm
I can see why they’d be pampered, since they’re practically the age of his children or grandchildren. 🙂 Marriages with a large age difference is definitely something that varies from culture to culture but usually in the US or Europe, women only do it to get money. At least that’s the stereotype.
November 5th, 2014 at 5:01 am
Enjoyed the touching story David. I half expected your usual twist at the end, but I wasn’t disappointed to not find it.
February 17th, 2015 at 10:57 pm
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