Elderlove

“How will it all end?” wonders still beautiful Irene, in the film Still Mine, as she senses the deterioration of her mind. “What if I forget everything?”

Her 86-year-old husband, Craig, promises he’ll be there for her, no matter what, and embarks on a project to build a house more suited to eldercare—by himself, in the old-fashioned way his father taught him to build.

But times have changed. Craig, insistent on doing it all himself, runs afoul of 21st-century permitting procedures and building codes.  When he’s run up 26 violations, he’s in danger of being jailed. The true story of how Craig Morrison takes his stand against the slings and arrows of outrageous bureaucracy turns into a fin film. Genevieve Bujold as Irene shows us that sexy, sensual beauty plays its part life-long, while James Cromwell exemplifies not only manly true love but the wisdom and authority that seem to accrue naturally to tall old men (Cromwell is 2.01 meters tall).

This could be Oscar stuff.

Of course, reviewers compare this film to other elder-love stories like Away from Her and Amour. Certainly the story lines are similar: old lady begins to lose it; her old man is faithful to her wishes till the end, fighting off gown children, doctors, government and any other entity that thinks it knows best. A hero to the last gasp.

This must be why Mom always said divorce is a bad thing.

I left the dear old Patricia Theater with a brand new crush on James Cromwell (Eat your heart out, Patrick Stewart!) and I surely wasn’t the only woman there wearing a wistful smile. After all, the facts are (1) that more than half of marriages end in divorce or separation and (2) men die eight years younger than women. You can’t postpone finding McDreamy until your sixth or seventh decade—it doesn’t work. Plenty of fish is a myth at this age.

Or you’ll be me: divorced from a tall smart guy to whom authority is synonymous with weapon. Half a dozen women have hitched up with him only to conclude, belatedly, that wisdom is not likely to sniff at the man’s door any time soon.

So, it could be worse. I could still be Wife #3, ruining my health by running interference between the generations while secretly hoping he will go first, so that at last I can have a few years of peace.

How will it all end? My wolf dog gives me dubious looks sometimes, doubting my sanity, but he certainly won’t desert me unless I forget to fill his dish for a while, in which case he may speed-dial my daughter: “You’d better get up here right away!” So, I’m okay for his lifetime, right? Once he goes, I may think about putting something in place so that I don’t have to call her myself if I wake up dead one fine morning.

Tine and Gerry's wedding.

Tine and Gerry’s wedding.

I lack my mother’s nerve. Widowed at sixty-seven, she braved the dating game, remarried at 77, and had 14 years with a lovely guy. But that was her generation. Boomers aren’t going to have it so easy. Magazines are beginning to discuss the Problem of Us.  We are fodder for articles that offer only limp solutions, since elder-love is admittedly hard to come by. Our kids are few in number and widely scattered. Our governing bodies wish that our withering bodies would pass on quickly, saving the nation buckets of pension money. In a society where university graduates can’t find more than a subsistence job, the experience and wisdom of elders is not something companies want to pay for.

So how will it all end?

Hey, Girlfriend, want to share a little old house and garden? Bring the cat.

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