A really old geezer with two new knees, pushing a walker, stopped me in the hall at rehab a few days ago and said, "You're Mrs. Linklater aren't you?" Oh no, someone else from my past. As I looked at this ancient old person shuffling along, I prayed silently, "Please don't tell me we used to date." He smiled and said, "I'm Mr. Fixit [not his real name]. You used to come into our store for paint and other stuff thirty years ago." I not only didn't remember the store. I still don't remember him. Just what did I do that made him remember me?
When I encounter elderly couples married for decades, I often ask them how they met. One woman came to her future husband's photography studio for a college graduation photo. Sixty years later they are still married. Even better, he pulled out his wallet and showed me the photograph he took of her that fateful day. She was lovely. Another elderly husband I talked to carried a picture of himself as a young man. His wife was the one who wanted me to see it. He had been as handsome as any movie star. He also had a candid photo of the two of them taken on their honeymoon, fifty years before. The cuddly couple in the picture was a far cry from the woman using a walker and the old guy with lousy hearing sitting in front of me. Hey, we didn't used to be this way.
Our MTV culture practically demands that we produce evidence of our former youth. As if that will save us from the scrap heap of irrelevance. I have to admit there have been times when I have looked at a very old person curled up in a wheelchair, unable to speak or care for themselves, and tried to imagine what they were like in their twenties. Maybe that's why, when I meet a couple married for a long time, I have asked the wives whether they can still see the young man they met, even as he has aged. Particularly when the person he was no longer resembles the person he is. Apparently that's something they both do. You and I see the wrinkles, the gray hair and the infirmities. They see someone from forty years ago.
I found an article in the Smithsonian about a woman named Mary Meyer, who was murdered in 1964 on a path, while out for a walk in Georgetown. An unsolved homicide to this day. But there are many unsolved crimes in D.C. So why a story about her? Sure, her family was well connected, although that wouldn't be reason enough to write about anyone these days. She was also an accomplished artist. But not that good. Here's a possibility -- she had once been married to a CIA operative. Perhaps an Oliver Stone conspiracy theory? None of the above. Turns out her biggest claim to fame was an affair with JFK. I guess if you want to be remembered 35 years after you're dead, you have to have sex with the right people first.
I wonder if I have waited too long.