From Chicken Soup for the Romantic Soul

The Ageless Dance of Love

Age does not protect you from love, but love to some extent protects you from age.

Jeanne Moreau

The hot line rang loudly, awakening me from a sound sleep. I picked up the old-style black phone and heard the voice of an alert dispatcher: “We have an elderly male who is not breathing at Angler Courts, Cabin Four. It’s the second cabin on the left from the Fulton Road entrance.” I hung up the phone, jumped into my paramedic uniform, and stopped in the bathroom to check my eyes for mascara rings and finger through my big Texas hair. A possible cardiac arrest; the adrenaline streaked through my veins. Our south Texas resort area had mainly trauma in summer and cardiac in winter because of the northern retirees who spent the colder months here.

As I pulled onto the highway in the early dawn, I hit the switch that causes eye-popping lights of red, blue and white to bounce reflections from surrounding buildings. That tends to wake me up. I held off on the siren, since no real need existed at that hour.

I pulled into the given address and parked near a sheriff deputy’s car. Volunteer EMTs were already on the scene. As I walked up the steps to the little clapboard cabin, a deputy spoke quietly to me. “It looks like he’s been down awhile, Wendy.”

I saw a small woman standing by the bed, clutching the front of her blue quilted robe. Her short white hair fluffed into curls around her face and reminded me of a Tiny Tears doll I had as a child. As I placed the jump kit on the floor and the Life-Pak heart monitor on the bed, I asked the burly EMTs what they had assessed to this point.

“We found him breathless and pulseless. We didn’t start anything, but if you want us to. . . .” I picked up the old man’s hand; they were right. Lying on his back, pillow under his head, he looked peaceful. The thought passed through my mind that he had no problem greeting death tonight. I placed the paddles on his chest to monitor his heart rhythm and found none. An absolute flatline. I asked for his age. “He would have been eighty-six next February,” his wife said softly. I asked the deputy to notify the funeral home in the next town. We all knew it would take at least an hour. We would wait with her.

Another paramedic stood with me as I took the miniature-looking hand of the new widow. “Ma’am, I am sorry, but your husband’s heart has stopped, and it has been too long for us to attempt any sort of resuscitation. It appears that he may have died quietly sometime in the night.” She acknowledged by gently nodding her head.

“When did you notice that he wasn’t breathing?”

“Well, sweetie,” she said, “we went to bed around midnight. We just lay there and talked, like we do every night. We aren’t like most folks our age; we stay up late and sleep late. Our friends just hate that about us. Anyway, we talked until about 1 A.M., then we began to make love.”

There was a sharp intake of breath from the paramedic next to me and he suddenly began to fidget with the gear on his belt.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, you did what at about 1 A.M. . . . ?”

“We were having sex, making love.” She graciously deadpanned her delivery. “We finished about an hour later, and I got up to go to the bathroom. When I came back, he was lying just like that, like you see him now. I told him goodnight, but now that I think about it, I’m not sure he answered.”

Every person in the room had discovered some obscure duty that demanded their immediate attention. No one would look in our direction. Backs were shaking slightly from held-in laughter. Law enforcement officers suddenly needed to go outside, medics were packing up equipment, and no one, absolutely no one, would make any eye contact. This precious little woman never shied away from her description of the evening, had no embarrassment of it, and seemed to believe their behavior standard— for octogenarians to engage in sex for one hour.

“When I woke up to visit the bathroom at 6 A.M.,” she said, “I couldn’t arouse him.” Poor choice of words with this audience. We were instantly alone in the room. The guys nearly knocked down the door getting out. I envisioned the chuckle-stifling crew hidden on the other side of the ambulance.

“I just cannot imagine it, though. We have sex most every night and it never killed him before.” But instead of laughter, I felt immediate respect and admiration for this couple who had remained close emotionally and physically until their ultimate separation.

“You must have had such a grand love for one another.” I moved her to a chair and had her sit down. “May I make some coffee while we wait for the funeral home folks? Do you want to talk for a while?”

“That would be nice. You’ve all been nice and so prompt. Yes, coffee . . . I suppose. I have a lot of things to do now. I should call my daughter in Illinois. I should. . . .” She looked at her husband as her eyes welled up with tears. “I will miss him, I already do. . . . You know, I remember the day we met.”

“Please tell me about it. We can make the calls later, after they have come for him. How did you meet?”

I sipped hot coffee and held the hand of a lovely farm girl from Kansas. As she spoke, I saw in her eyes a twenty-year-old seeing her first love, her only love, her constant love. Through the hardships of farming, raising children, losing two children and growing old, they had remained true to each other.

A habit had formed early. Each night they talked in bed for about an hour and then made love to one another. Emotional and physical communication had kept their relationship fresh for sixty years. They never viewed each other as old, never saw wrinkles, never noticed the changes that naturally happen to a body with age. At night, they were ageless—connecting, moving and swaying to a dance of their own creation. No “if onlys” will exist in her mind, only dear sweet memories of a man and a marriage made in heaven.

Wendy J. Natkong

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