I wonder if emptiness (of all sorts) is part of growing old. For some people, it is a simple matter of empty nest or retiring from a job or perhaps losing a partner. For others, it is more than that. Having worked near them, I happened to know that the favorite topic of elderly people is discussing who are not around anymore among their peers and family members. The conversation eventually leads and always ends up to the unavoidable examination and exploration of their own mortality and how much time they have left.
Another thing which fascinates me about older people is the interesting phenomenon of seemingly (or actually) falling (madly) in love in their last years of existence. I can tell you with conviction two events which I had observed from close by quite recently. One is about the grandmother of someone who is dear to me. She is well in her eighties already. A no-nonsense woman who doesn’t mince her words, stubborn and argumentative, she is the last person I thought would lose her head over someone who is not only young enough to be her youngest grandson but also sleek and in my eyes fake.
He was her nurse at the beginning but soon escalated to be the center of her universe. His visits were the only thing she was looking forward in her day to day life, so much so that she started cooking dinner for him, buying him gifts, phoning him dozen of times a day, tracking of his whereabouts and she associated his daily tasks of giving her baths with mutual attraction she even bought new sets of lingerie each week and never failed to tell to family members in details how he undressed and held her and how tender and careful he was, how tall, how handsome how kind, you get my drift.
During family gatherings, she reserved a prominent seat next to her for his apple of the eye she even did it at the “coffee table” after her husband’s funeral to the chagrin of her own children and grandchildren who are by the way opposed and scandalized by her unusual behavior. As it happens, authorities found out that the nurse is guilty of malpractice (together with his mother- talking of apple not falling far from the tree- involving money from his patients) and was sentenced and convicted. Even before it happened and there were already talks of his professional misconducts, she defended his virtue and integrity with her life and she still does even he is proven guilty already. What a love (or obsession) can do.
Another case is my very own mother. When she was alive she fell in love with one of my boyfriends (a very fine example of a tall dark and handsome and a body to die for but for some unknown reasons didn’t work for me) and like the old lady above was thoroughly smitten with the boy in his twenties. She was in her seventies that time, energetic and more alive and more supple than I could ever hope to be. When we broke up my mother cried for two weeks straight and refused to leave her bed. She never cooks again after that and often neglected not only her own personal hygiene and appearance but also of her quarter. I was flabbergasted and still is whenever I think about it.
I wonder if this strange phenomenon is unique only to these two cases I know or happens to most if not everyone and what are the factors, the reasons behind these incidents. It is the void, the cavity, the emptiness of growing old and being alone realizing it is their last chance they are trying to fill or it simply happens? Are they trying to create a focal point in their otherwise bleak existence to brighten their darkening days and have reasons to wake and stand up every morning? A last effort to feel and experience what was to take to their deathbeds? I don’t know. But whatever it is, I hope it will not happen to me. But in this life, you never know…