In A Pickle  

In sickness and health, seniors are best at marital commitment

Elderly love story

I heard the elderly man’s heart break from across the room.

Every day, Ben faithfully came to visit his wife, Shirley, in the nursing home. Shirley had Alzheimer’s, but still remembered her husband and stiffly crawled onto his lap.

He cradled her like a baby and rocked her. Shirley rested her head against his shoulder contentedly, as her eyelids slowly closed, with a warm smile on her face. He brushed her cheek with his hand and softly kissed her, then wiped away his tears.

Ben whispered sweet nothings in her ear and she nuzzled him. Their love was palpable; something dementia wouldn’t steal from them just now. Their hearts beat as one to a soothing rhythm. Peace resonated into every nook and cranny of the outdated building, as it basked in their tenderness.

Some snapping and cracking of logs on the fire interrupted the gentle tempo, but there was no fireplace. It was the man’s heart, splitting open and bursting into a thousand hot embers. His anguish was tangible. The bittersweet scene that was unfolding deeply moved me. Their love was so endearing it was all I could do not to break down.

The disease rendered Shirley mute, but she loved him with every fibre of her being. She was serene with Ben, but inconsolable without him.

At last he slowly stood and carried the frail, aged woman a few meters and gently lowered her into the wheelchair. However, she wouldn’t let go of his neck and they wailed. Ben finally tore himself from her embrace and, blinded by tears, rushed out of the room. His eyes were streaming as the pouring rain that hammered against the window. The door slammed behind him as he hurried down the lane to his car.

I imagined his gut wrenching sobs as they ripped free from his vocal chords that welled up from deep inside his chest. Ben fumbled for the keys, got in his vehicle, and slumped over sideways. While lying in the fetal position, the man sobbed in the front seat of the old clunker.

A dark cloud appeared above. The thunder roared in indignation for the couple, while the wind howled in agreement with it. The downpour rained tears from heaven, as God, their Maker, wept for them.

I composed myself as he drove away. It was endearing to see their bittersweet affection grow each time Ben came to visit Shirley.

They unknowingly provided a priceless gift to my jaded, battle scarred heart. Within every cynic is a hopeless romantic, and this was much better than any steamy romance novel.

How do you manufacture that kind of closeness? We cannot buy true love. Their devotion, which was almost as old as the giant Weeping Willow out front, awed me. Her ancient limbs tottered in the wind and rain. The tree witnessed it all as she pitched back and forth, while the water dripped off her many leaves in mourning.

I swallowed hard and observed the staff, trying to reassure Shirley that Ben would return soon. It was sad to end the day on that note. However, since that time, I have had the honour of meeting several other mature couples who floored me with their unshakable allegiance to each other.

One such pair was a man named Barry and his disabled wife Grace, whom he doted on. He made her laugh and did all he could to make her feel better and lessen her distress. Because of her illness, Grace couldn't speak, but still had all her faculties and their relationship remained strong as ever.

The last noteworthy middle-aged partners met in a tavern. Brenda was a server and refused Owen's order for more booze. Although he was drunk, her concern for him astounded him when she wouldn’t give him another drink.

Owen came back the next day sober, and they became friends, which eventually led to romance and marriage, and he did not consume alcohol since that fateful meeting. Their relationship was short but meaningful, as she nursed him at home when he was dying of a brain tumour. Brenda grieved for Owen as though they’d known each other for a lifetime. I marvelled at how the unlikely union turned out to be so lovely.

There is hope for humanity yet.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel writes about the humour in every-day life, and gets much of her inspiration from the late Erma Bombeck’s writing style. 

Doreen also has a serious side, shares her views on current events, human-interest stories and sometimes the downright bizarre. 

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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