One of the questions I tackle in my new book, Leap! What Will We Do with the Rest of our Lives?, is: what happens to love and sex? Both, I've found, can grow more intense and expansive as long as we're healthy.
My mom met the love of her life when she was 86. She spotted him by himself at a bridge club, asked if he wanted to play with her and they became inseparable. Harold and Mom.
"He's a doctor, a retired doctor," she told me on the phone. "But he's a younger man."
"How young?" I asked.
"I don't know."
Well, what decade is he in? Sixties, seventies?
"Oh..." she said. "He's probably... 82."
My mom had wanted her daughters to marry doctors but that hadn't happened. Now she was dating one herself, and when she introduced him to her friends, she'd say, "Susan, this is Doctor Lapidus."
"Call me Harold," he said.
Harold lived with an unmarried daughter and my mom lived alone, but they saw each other every day. They played bridge, went to the theater and had dinner with friends, always holding onto each other tightly and keping their heads close together. When I asked my mom how she was doing, she'd say, "Wonderful! I have a boyfriend. I'm still driving..."
But the driving was a problem. Her memory started failing at the same time Harold's legs were giving out. He had to use a walker, then a wheelchair, and my mom couldn't remember anything you just said to her. My sister and I didn't want her driving anymore, but Harold said, "You can't do that to her--it would take away her freedom."
We agonized and stalled for another year, then took away her car keys when she wasn't looking and arranged for an aide to drive her. She called me in a rage. "I'm over twenty-one! I can make my own decisions. You are NOT to make them for me."
I explained, for the 500th time, that we love her and want her to be safe and she slammed down the phone.
I stood in my kitchen and took deep breaths. Then I called her back and she said, as if the sun had just risen, "Sara, how wonderful to hear from you! Where are you now?"
She'd forgotten she was angry at me. Why couldn't this have happened when I was younger?
I'm telling you about this because I found, in researching Leap!, that at the same time our kids are leaving home, our parents need attention. We have to deal with thorny issues--when and how to take away the car, when to consider assisted living--and this fills us with anguish, not just for them but because we're next on the conveyor belt.
Many of us are thinking hard about where and with whom we'll live when we're "old old." In Leap! I write about co-housing and other ways to grow older with like-minded souls.
It seems important to be with friends. Take Harold and Mom. Her body is strong but her short-term memory is gone and she needs an aide with her round the clock so she doesn't leave a pot on the stove and burn the condo down. Harold's mind and memory are sharp--he remembers every number he hears--but he needs an aide to help him dress and bathe. She can walk and he can remember, and together, for the time being, they do all right.
To contact Sara Davidson or read an excerpt from Leap! please visit www.saradavidson.com.