When the flames of young love scatter, before slipping into their place in time, there remains in all the mornings of mature lovers who have generously shared a life together, the radiance of an old romance that still warms their hearts, and brings a smile to their lips.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art lovelier and more temperate: Shakespeare knew the trials and rewards of love. It’s a miracle really, that a simple, I’ll love you forever, can live and grow, and survive all these tangles of just living. Even more miraculous are those echoes of that promise that remains when one is left without the Valentine who vowed to love them forever.
The gentle sounds of older love are there every day, in ways taken for granted. That familiar smile, the sound of footsteps in the hall, sharing the paper, coffee in the same old favorite cups; fond, simple rituals that have been repeated so many years they are as intimate as their own heartbeats.
The jingle of keys, the humming of a song from a day long past. Older lovers may still dance a step or two when they hear “Stardust” or one of their favorite songs; they chuckle or pat their feet. It may remind them of a long-ago romance that wasn’t expected to last the summer. Now and then the past will sing to them sweetly and another old love will be resurrected, only for a moment, folded in their memories. But, they let it go, scatter the ashes, and realize that today is the best, this moment is the best; and he pats her hand and thanks God for what they have.
There is a comfort in a love that isn’t baby-faced and ice cream new. It has bumps and bruises, and it’s probably been scuffed a time or two. It’s likely been lost and found, picked up and brushed off. But, finally here is a love they can relax in. It’s casual and loose, with soft and gentle hugs that slide in easily from years of practice, acceptance; and learning to say, I’m sorry, even when they don’t feel so sorry.
Then suddenly, it seems, those days that have slid by so quickly, like old memories, have left behind gentle faces pressed with the traces of time. Age is clearly written in every feature. But, somehow it becomes difficult to notice wrinkles with bifocals and twinkles in the eyes.
Now the hands that hold each other in the warmth of this older love, are clasped tightly. These same hands once guided growing children and pointed out what was right and good. They were hands that held a sobbing child tightly and wiped away tears. They are hands that still fold in prayer, sometimes they gently pat a shoulder. They are God’s hands.
Then as that gleam of silver begins to sparkle in their hair, every strand becomes more precious (and rare). The truth is the beauty in the body starts retreating with our youth. But older love sees beauty in honesty and truth.
The fact is none of us are perfect. Were we ever? We’re no longer beautiful, or young. Yet, great though the memories were, most would not change a single breathless moment in their lives. Through some miracle, these two Valentines found they were meant for each other; and love holds them together, bound imperfectly, sometimes loosely, but in a strange way their souls become as one.
Eventually after the madness of youth passed, this mature love became a satisfying way of life, truly a gift. And through the years they vow again and again to be good to one another forever. Older lovers realize that some loving moments quickly leave. We are promised nothing. The eternal summers will fade, except in their hearts.
Mature lovers know that they will fail in this battle of life every single day; something stupid will be said or done. But, the beauty and the wonder is that a significant other may shake their head and sigh, but will love them anyway. They laugh, that old sweetheart of mine.
Just two ordinary people, who met and loved, whether yesterday or many years ago.
They are blessed with a devotion to each other that is rare in this day and age. They remember the joy of a stolen glance. A private joke.
They have come stumbling along, only glancing at each milestone, yet realizing that each year these moments grow more precious. Arm in arm they travel bumpy roads; keeping their eyes on the path, leaning heavily for support. And the road was indeed rocky, the hills were steep, yet the trip was all too short.
Sometimes it seemed they had the whole world to themselves. Sometimes they did.
Micki Cottle was a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent who occassionally regales readers with her wit and charm. She is also a member of the Sampson County Historical Society.