By Chris Kitch
My mother married my father, her college sweetheart right after graduation at the age of 22. She had me at 23 and my sister at 25. Years later after my father's successful business career came to an end, my parents retired from Connecticut to Florida. Several months after the move my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. They continued to live a full life together for 14 years until about 6 months before Dad passed away. 54 years of a pretty great marriage so far as we could all tell.
What happened after Dad's death is not a unique story. Millions have gone through this kind of pain and sorrow before my mother. The loneliness, sadness, the empty heart, the piles of paperwork, the void, but by her account you might have thought that she was a first.
Mom had never lived alone in her whole life before this. She was in a type of shock and yes, very lonely. The televison noise was a constant companion. Friends reached out but it was just not the same. My sister and I would visit for occassional long weekends from NY and CA and a week or 2 a year. They were good visits but we both dreaded the drive to the airport at the end of our trips when Mom would start crying and squeeze out her question of when we would visit next. She longed to have something to "look forward to."
This lifestyle continued. She began to play some golf and continued with her tennis.
As time passed the situation improved but it became clear it was time to consider a move to a retirement commmuntity if for nothing else but the socialization aspect of it. After a protracted search for the perfect community and then waiting for the perfect unit, the move took place.
Moving from 14 years of Florida condo living was stressful. Mom went with a small amount of kicking and screaming but eventually "landed" happily in her new home, which by the way looked very much like her "old" home. I am told it often works this way.
So now comes the good news! Three weeks into being the "new resident kid on the block" Mom met a wonderful man at the retirement home. As it turned out, they had both attended the same college in Ohio but did not know each other there. He had also known who my father was but did not know him. His wife had passed away suddenly 6 years earlier. He too had enjoyed a long successful marriage.
Friends introduced them at a dinner. Their chats became lenghty "life talks," frequent visits, home cooked meals at each other's condos and then they announced they were falling in love. He at 86; my mom at 83. Wow.
What seemed to be something that would never happen - happened! As my mother puts it "I have had the good fortune to have fallen in love twice in my lifetime." She called to say hello one day early on in the relationship and ended up in "happy tears," saying, "I thought I was happy but I never knew how happy I could be."
It is weird? Yes, a bit because he is not my Dad. Strange? It shouldn't be but it is a little. Remember this is my mother! Different? Yes definitely different but wonderful and my sister and I could not be happier for this shared companionship! Retirement homes are a huge leap for active people. In our case it really worked out well!
I share this story because I have many friends who have lonely parents who claim that they are not ready for a retirement community. This is of course certainly understandable. Not everyone will meet a second love but active entrants will enjoy warm and welcoming companionship. People need people and are almost always happier with special people in their lives.