An old – and I mean positively ancient – friend of mine just lost his wife after 45 years. They’d worked and lived together 24/7 and her sudden death came as an agonizing blow.
When I spoke to him immediately after it happened, the first thing he did was to come on to me. We’d always enjoyed a bit of a flirt and I liked him well enough, but there was no way I was going to show interest in such sensitive circumstances, apart from which he’s far too old for me (72!) and I never fancied him anyway.
Days after the poor woman was barely cold in her grave, the bereaved husband was on the internet seeking solace. He complained about early-onset loneliness, the hollow emptiness of his house, the terror of climbing the stairs to bed each night and not finding her there. Those of us who’ve suffered human loss of any sort can certainly relate to that.
His sons, grandchildren, business colleagues and friends could not console him. He needed another woman! And fast! Enter Ms Russia. Oh how we groaned . . .
Don’t you realise what she wants? said one. She’s hardly after you for your looks, said another. This is disrespectful to J’s memory, said a third. Give yourself time to grieve, said a fourth. No fool like an old fool! they all said in unison.
The trouble is, emotionally, men are not strong. Especially men who’ve been looked after all their lives – washing and ironing done, food on the table, children reared and packed off into the world. OK, I know they have to bring home the bacon and provide the means, but a widowed woman is a very different animal to a widowed man.
And so Mr. T started dating Ms Russia long-distance and became hooked. Late night conversations soon became intimate and revelatory as they do without the naked exposure of eye-to-eye contact. In fairness, she’s no spring chicken, but life in the West is a great draw and she soon professed undying love.
They met in the summer, planned their future in the autumn, and get married this winter. Poor J hasn’t been gone six months - no wonder some of his kids have disowned him and his friends are saying: “Good on ya, mate” to his face and screwing their fingers into their temples behind his back.
But is he so wrong? Should he have waited? Come to terms with his loss, let time be the healer and all those other platitudes we’re told to suffer. Aren’t we all just looking for love (maybe in all the wrong places) but grateful anyway for whatever form it takes?
He says she’s saved him - if it hadn’t been for her, he’d have topped himself. And if, as he reckons, he only has 10 or 15 years left, why should he spent them in misery and pain if there’s a woman out there willing to spend them with him?
I take my hat off to a man who’s recognized his weaknesses and pro-activated himself a happier future even if society disapproves. I wish them both joy. If they’ve found something in each other that no one else can provide, then good luck to them.
As the Beatles sang: All you need is love . . .