The vast majority of couples in romance novels are young, or at least young-ish. That’s the beautiful time of our lives, right? We’re frisky and firm, bouncy and beautiful, with hormone levels topping the charts. What better time to illustrate falling in love?
But what happens after The End of the story? After you’ve turned the last page? I mean, in real life?
Last night I witnessed a love story in its later stages. My husband and I were headed into our favorite local diner for an early dinner. A dozen steps ahead of us, an elderly couple trundled their way up the entrance ramp to the door. They had to be in their eighties. She, at least a head taller than the Mister, wielded a cane. But even she was moving faster than her stooped, white-haired companion, who carried a small tote containing, I assumed, his oxygen supply. Clear plastic tubing snaked from the carrier to encircle his head.
Halfway up the ramp, Missus stopped and turned, obviously waiting for Mister. There she stood patiently as Mister shuffled past, reaching forward with his free hand to open the door for her.
My heart clutched. Chivalry, I thought, is not dead. Nor does the right for a woman to be treated like a lady fade with the color of her hair. And male pride definitely does not wither with loss of physical stature or strength.
There have been a few romance novels addressing the elder love story. Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook comes to mind. A masterpiece, no doubt. But I came away from reading that book sad, depressed. It seemed the emphasis, to me at least, was on what we lose as we age together with our HEA partner. How about what we hang on to? The elements of love that survive even the ravages of time and failing health?
My fellow Soul Mate author, Susan B. James, wrote a wonderful book called Time and Forever. She utilized the time-travel trope with a modernistic twist—Virtual Reality—to illustrate how true love never really does die, no matter how old we get. And how it’s never, ever too late to rediscover the magic, the comfort, the euphoria that sharing love with another person brings to our lives. I have read her book twice, and will definitely read it again. Anytime I need a boost to remind me that no matter how time stomps over me in its march toward the future, love is unstompable.
My husband is fifteen years my senior, and I inch closer to sixty every year. But after thirty-eight years together, not much, really, has changed. Okay, so we don’t chase each other around the bed every night—not every night. Our romantic dinners are still occasionally shared over candlelight, but usually only when the power is out. And long, autumn jaunts through the wooded mountains to admire the colors of the season no longer require hiking gear—they take place in our comfy Kia, on back country roads.
Love—true, happy-ever-after love—really is timeless, ageless. It simply makes adjustments along the way.
I’ll never know if the elderly couple ahead of us at the diner have been together for decades, or if they met a few months ago at a physical therapy session. But one thing is for sure: that little, old man worships his little, old lady. Even though she’s no longer “beautiful,” at least according to the stereotypical definition so prized by our youth-focused society. To him, she’s a goddess. He’s also not timid about showing the world he thinks so. For her, he is still her gallant knight.
Happily-ever-after. The ever-after, really, is the best part.
Claire Gem is a multi-published, award winning author of emotional romance—contemporary, paranormal, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction. She writes about strong, resilient women who won’t give up their quest for a happy-ever-after—and the men lucky enough to earn their love. Visit her at her website.