Last week, I was able to play my favorite reminiscence grab bag game again. I offered a workshop on “Keeping Your Mind Strong” to some loves at an assisted living facility and we had an awesome time. Though I didn’t necessarily hear any super-insightful responses like I’ve written about before, there was one nonna who really got me thinking. One of the prompts is “greatest role model.” When reading it aloud, I offered examples: a parent, a mentor, a former teacher. The nonna who’d picked this one, however, specified that her greatest role model had been her husband. Davvero?!
Amongst the countless things we learn from elders, it’s been my experience that love is of the most profound. To be clear: unless I’m crazy about you, I am not a lovey-dovey person. The word “relationship” gives me anxiety. I am the epitome of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca when he replies “I never make plans that far ahead” to Madeline LeBeau’s “Will I see you tonight?” I can tell you with confidence that I am not writing this post as a sappy 20-something girl whose five-year plan is to find a husband and start a family.
That being said, the love these nonnos and nonnas have shown me blows my cynicism to pieces. It floors me. I, like everyone else, have a general idea of what I want and what I look for in a partner; I’ve got the standard mental checklist that I refer to and that changes as I grow. While some criteria remain, I’ve tweaked or eliminated others. Does he need to let Max sleep in bed with us? Yes. Will he have to be as obsessed with traveling? No. One condition that persists: he has to be there. Like, really be there. Not in the sense that he’s breathing down my neck; I mean I have to know that this guy would stand by my side through thick and thin, and that I would proudly, without hesitation do the same for him.
I’m cynical, but now I’m spoiled. I’ve seen a love that withstands both physical and intellectual decay – the kind of crumbling that leads to pureed meals & empty stares, to alarming confusion & hurtful claims, and to incontinence & immobility. It’s this love that plows through hurdles and persists. The man who’d talk to me despite my silence, who’d care for me without applause, who’d lie beside me on my bathroom floor to ease my pain – he would be my role model, and me [hopefully] his.