I was 69-years-old when I found the love of my life -- and he was 20 years younger. Oh sure, I'd loved before. In fact, I was even married twice. But this love I have now is so far beyond what I had previously known, and so much more than I had ever dreamed possible, that I still wake up every morning wondering whether such a love can be real. Only in movies, I used to think. Now I know that it can happen in real life.
I'd broken up with my last boyfriend when I was 59. I tried online dating for a couple of years and finally gave up. I was, quite simply, done with love. I figured I'd experienced it all: the good, the bad, the mad and the utterly unreasonable. I just didn't want the hassle any more. Given my experiences, which, for the most part, consisted of falling madly in love with an inappropriate man, only to have my heart utterly broken, I was more than willing to call it quits. I was 60-something. I'd loved and lost. I'd had some decent sex, generally with the aforementioned highly inappropriate men. What more could I possibly need or expect? I'd come to the logical conclusion that I wasn't particularly good at relationships. For the next seven or eight years, I created an amazing life for myself that only reinforced my desire to drop all aspirations regarding future relationships. I hiked; I had amazing friends of both sexes; I travelled to Europe where I trekked over the Alps. I had a career that satisfied me; I lacked nothing. I was happy and content. I had no sleepless nights. Not once did I lie awake sobbing into my pillow.
And then, just before my 69th birthday, a former work colleague contacted me on Facebook. He wanted to get back into hiking. Would I take him out for a few hours one day?
"Sure," I said.
A few weeks later we met at the trailhead and hiked up some beautiful forested ridges. We talked: at first, just a quick catchup since we'd last spoken a few years previously. And then we began to touch on the big subjects -- the things we cared about like the environment, social justice, nature, authenticity. At one point I told him to just stop: I was getting righteously bored with saying "me too!" And I understood at that point how true it is that the "me too" factor is one of the most important in a successful relationship. Then Simon asked me how old I was. I told him and his jaw dropped. He'd thought I was a bit older, but 20 years older?
At the end of that hike, I drove home, thinking about him. My clearest thought was, "I wish I was 20 years younger."
We went on more hikes. My attraction to him grew stronger. But I could never have this man; I was too old. He was so attractive, so witty, so funny. No one had ever made me laugh so much. I had never been with someone who felt so "right" -- so much like home.
Simon is a musician. I went to one of his gigs with a group of friends. Watching this hot, handsome man singing his heart out on stage, I turned to a friend and said, "I wish I was 20 years younger.
"Age is just a number," she said.
I thought about that: "Maybe."
And then Simon and I went on a hike a couple of days before he went to a 10-day retreat. We hugged good-bye at the end of the hike and on a sudden impulse -- a rush of pure love -- I reached up and kissed him on the cheek. He pulled me in closer and kissed my lips.
That was it for me. I surrendered to what was happening. And something surely was happening. That night, before he left, we exchanged a flurry of emails filled with words of love. I was as excited and crazy as a 16-year-old.
I was also afraid. I was older. Could this be? Yes, it could. But he was off to meditate for 10 days. He had lots of time to come to his senses. And so did I.
We'd already made a date to hike the day after he returned. I pondered. What about the difference in our ages? It isn't unusual for a man to date a woman 20 years younger. But the other way around? Really? The more I thought about it, the more I thought, "Why cant we have a relationship if we love each other?"
Fast forward to our next meeting: early morning in the coffee shop parking lot where we had arranged to carpool to the trailhead. We pulled up at the same time. My knees were probably knocking together as I got out of the car. I also had a silly grin on my face, not only because I was so pleased to see this beautiful man, but also because I tend to wear a stupid smile when I'm nervous. And boy, was I full of nerves! Simon had an equally big grin on his face. And he simply took me in his arms and kissed me: a kiss that went on and on and on and turned my knees to water.
And my world suddenly righted itself. My feet landed on solid ground. From that point on I fell more in love each day. I don't know if this amazing love I have found, that has grown more and more profound and committed with each day, is because I am older now or if it is because, after all this time, I have found the one real love of my life. Here are some of the things that are deeply different with this beautiful man: neither one of us wants to change the other. We have profound respect and admiration for who the other person is. We have created a safe space where each of us knows that we are safe being completely authentic. We don't want to change each other. We celebrate each other. We know each other's foibles and we love each other "anyway." We give each other space when we need it. We are committed to meticulous communication -- when something comes up, no matter how small the issue or misunderstanding, we talk about it until that issue is resolved. We play a game of win/win -- each of us wants the other to succeed. We support each other. We want to see each other grow in every way including professionally, emotionally and spiritually.
Importantly, this is a mature love. Both of us have lived through pain, heartache, disappointment and hard knocks. We have scars and wounds that can open unexpectedly. But we are here to heal each other, to be there for each other no matter what. Of all the amazing things this relationship has brought into my life, and into Simon's life too, I believe, is the dedication to being kind to each other. My greatest joy is giving to him. And Simon showers me with gifts every day: the gift of his smile, his love, his caring, his complete selflessness. I have never been so loved. I have never had anyone allow my love. After all these years, at the age of 69, I have found someone who allows me to give him all the love inside me and he accepts that love with a completely open heart and open arms.
This love came to me without expectation. I was sideswiped. And I am so glad of that. Not once have I thought, "I wish I'd had this years ago" or "think of all the years we missed." We had to meet when we did. We learned what we needed to learn in order to share what we do. In my deepest heart, I know that we are both blessed and will be for the rest of our lives.
As for the age difference? Two words: who cares?