The folksinger John McClutchen sings a song about the sweet ripening of love discovered and nurtured later in life. It brings a tear of joy to my eye to hear him sing it. The song, entitled “Old People In Love”, has a chorus after each verse. It goes like this:
Old people in love
I wonder how they do it
Old people in love
What kind of grace gets them through it?
Listening to this song recently got me to thinking of the kind of grace at work in mature love. When you have been living a long life, and you have experienced the “full catastrophe” of living, I don’t think you “fall” or “stay” in love in quite the same way as when you were young. In our youth, it seems to me, “falling in love” is fueled by hormonal excitement and sexual chemistry. As I recall “young” love, it’s also about exhibiting your “catch” to family and friends. What a “hunk” is he, or what a “babe” is she. Later on… not so much. Hormones and chemistry may still play a part but mature love has a different texture to it. It feels quieter and subtler. In fact, it has been my experience and observation that more “mature” attraction is often difficult for others to understand. The attraction you feel is more of an “inner “ experience. Furthermore, it ceases to matter weather other people really “get” your devotion to your partner. It only matters that you “get” it, and others feel your sense of peace and contentment. Its part of the “grace”
For me the “grace” is also the fact that you are willingly attaching yourself to someone who will most assuredly be declining in health in the coming years. Added to this, you yourself are declining as well. Of course we all are, no matter what our age. The difference is, in old age there is no longer the illusion that it can be otherwise. The evidence appears in the mirror, and in the face of our beloved on a daily basis. Eventually, we all see it.
Letting go of the illusion of eternal youth can be incredibly freeing in a mature relationship. Whereas earlier in life you may have looked at your partner and focused negatively on the imperfections of the sagging flesh, the pot belly, or the receding hairline, now all of these things become incredibly dear to you. They are dear just because they are part of your loved one’s corporality and proof of his/her continued existence in your life. Your beloved acknowledges and loves the imperfections in you as well. These little oddities in both of you can even be part of your conversation…. but not in a bad and demeaning way. Not ever in a way that seeks to change anything. Time is precious, as you are reminded every day the longer you live. Why waste it?
In another verse of his song, John McClutchen refers to the expanded clear vision of mature love in the following way:
“Cause they see with a truth
They were blind to in youth
It’s a gift from above
Old people in love”
It does seem to be a “gift from above”, this kind of love that stands the test of time and indeed gets better and deeper with each passing year. John McClutchen ends his song in this way:
“So let the long years have their way
Still every night of the year I pray
That the first and the last thing I see
Each day is you”
Old People in Love.
I couldn’t possibly say it any better