4.02.2010

Widowed from a May-December Relationship



Gavin and I had a “May-December” relationship. I always resented this term. It made me sound too fresh and green, when I was sticky, black and mean; and cast him as so close to the end of the story, when in fact, he was just out of a band and doing drawings that befuddled the critics. I’d think, couldn’t we at least call it “a June-October relationship?”

Not that I cared very much what anyone thought. We were in love. I was mature for my age, with a lot to learn in his strong areas: people, politesse, the power of listening. We surprised each other with our affection and our commitment, as it grew.

Sure, there were 20 years between us. I used to say, “our age gap is not quite up to Hollywood standards.” But it didn’t matter. We loved all the same bands. We both felt moved by minimalist and conceptual art (though he always accused me of spending more time reading the labels than looking at the art). Appreciated the splendor of the mundane. Alternated between goofy and overly earnest.

A few friends cringed, a little, at first. Those on his side could see, I’m sure, that I was ripping him from dotage with his elderly mother and the fate of dying alone, of avoiding fatherhood. Others saw Daddy issues. He didn’t really like having folks ask our infant daughter who her nice grandpa was. But it’s a post-Viagra world, people. Age is nothing but a number, or in our case, two of them.

We were happy. We had, for the most part, a good balance in our relationship. Our skills and strengths, to some degree, were complimentary. (I really wish he hadn’t been a pillbox about dinner parties. We were at our best as hosts, minglers.)

But one of the great lessons of widowhood, at least for me, has been that, fuck you, love is NOT enough. Maybe some people could see in us how we’d end up, that I’d be left behind, that it was inevitable he’d die on me.

Mr. Fresh says, “You didn’t ask to be widowed at 39. Maybe at 59, when he was 79, but no one would have expected it when you had a 2-year-old.” He has a point. As much as I’ve been an old soul, even as a child, I always felt I’d start life in a new, much better direction at age 50. I thought the most beautiful women always have silver hair. I do have several relatives who’ve lived past 100.

That doesn’t mean I had to find my match outside my peer group, but I did spend a lot of energy looking to a future as an old person. Would Gavin be part of that later life? I didn’t think we’d be the cliché on the porch in rocking chairs, but who was I to quibble when I loved him? “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

I don’t feel the same way anymore. I’ve played out the endgame of the May-December relationship. I don’t really have much advice or anything profound to say.

I just don’t recommend it.

* * * I'd be honored to hear your response in a comment or through other connection (Facebook, Twitter, Formspring, at right) * * *

14 comments:

mary said...

Ours was May-December, too. I always assumed Jim would go before I did, but I thought I had at least 10 more years. The parallel a counselor drew for me was with calculus. I always knew I'd get to calculus but the expectation was that I'd have taken algebra, geometry, and precalc first. This was like going straight from jr. high math to calculus.

Dan, in real time. said...

I was not in a May-December relationship, but I do feel that many feel I shouldn't be too surprised to find myslef a widower. After all, I did know that Michael had a brain tumor two years ago. I often think people expect that I should have undertood he was not mine for keeping, and that I should be able to just move one. You know, easier than most.

It's crazy. Loss is loss. We never really expect it. Even when we do, we never to expect to experience it as profoundly as we do.

Thanks for you writing.

Dan

annie said...

I was ten years older than my late husband. He was 29 when he was diagnosed and 32 when he died. My husband now is two years older than I am. He and his wife were the same age. She died at 45.

Age is not such a big deal. Length of time together was decided long ago and probably with our knowledge if not enthusiastic consent.

Moving on? It simply happens - usually when you are not expecting it.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Mary, Dan, and Annie,

As we all know, death is too close for any of us, despite age, genetic predisposition, or disease history. This is one of those messages that I probably need to direct more to civilians, even though I only have the simplest message, and don't feel very imperative about it.

And when I see a gray-haired man at the playground with his toddler? It warms my heart and I get only the slightest tinge of fear. I think for Gavin and I, it was worth it, I mean, even for me... part of my reconsidering where I was when I made the decision to commit to him 20 some years ago.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Kim said...

My mom and dad had a May-Dec relationship and he died when I was 12. Brian was only 2 years older than me and he died when Quinn was 11. And, there are a lot of grandparents out there raising their grand-babies because of some issue with the middle contingent. And police, firemen, military men all have brave women to marry and have babies - those wives are playing with the russian roulette wheel to be sure. Mysteries all.

Drake said...

Lynn was 19 years my senior, so I have an appreciation of what you experienced. People thought I was a money grubber (which is hilarious, since I always made much more than she did); people thought she was robbing the cradle (to which she would proudly proclaim, "Damn straight!")

I don't think you can fit love in a neat, tidy little box that fits everyone's ideas of what is proper. But yeah, I never really understood what it would be like to be widowed at such a young age, or how much I relied on her advice and guidance as I made the journey from "boy" to man. It makes the loss that much more keen.

Katie said...

I too was in a May-December relationship. My husband was nearly 32 years older than me. We never imagined he'd go..especially when he did! He, even at 57 (prior to being diagnosed with service connected Leukemia from his tour in Iraq) never took a pill. He was fit, healthy, and very vibrant.

After being widowed now, I see people that were younger than me die and leave a widow the same age. Age doesn't discriminate on when you will die. Never know when we will go, just gotta make the most out of life and have the memories still alive. Would I go through it all again and choose to marry him knowing the end result? You better believe it!

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Drake and Katie, Thanks for sharing your experiences. No one knows, of course, and Gavin was healthier than many his age and some of my age, but... personally, I would not do it again. We're all different...

Vanessa said...

Mine wasn't a May-December relationship, but I did go into it knowing that my husband had a severe heart defect and that I would almost certainly outlive him. I was hoping for 20 years together and got 10, but those 10 years were worth it. Would I get married to another person whom I knew would die before me ... it would depend on the person and the situation, but I might. I'd prefer not to have to make that decision, though.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

I think I'd feel the same way if it hadn't been for having a two year old. My rationale while he was alive was that love could make anything right. But trying to parent at the same time nearly killed me.

My main reason for not being afraid of Mr. Fresh dying on us, too, is that I wouldn't have a 2-year-old again or be in financial disaster. A slim advantage, perhaps, but my own way of rationalizing being able to commit to another mortal.

Hugs!

Supa

Peter said...

Claire was actually only 2 months older than I but we were both old for our age. We didn't even know one another until we were 21 yet had both been looking forward to settling down and having children since we were 16. I can identify with what you were saying about starting a new life at 50, for me 55. I've been looking forward to retiring in the country and having time for projects and grandchildren since I was a kid myself. Claire wasn't in as much of a rush to get there, and now that I have Hannah I'm not in such a rush for her to grow up, but I still imagine with longing this ideal life that won't start for another 25 years. Of course it's not really going to be ideal, because I'm a wife and a few kids short, the plan was that right about now Hannah would be getting a little brother to play with... Maybe one day, but I don't relish the idea of the age gap that she'll have if and when I get remarried and have more children.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Hi Peter,
I know what it's like to be an old soul and you probably feel even older now. It's terribly hard to adjust such a loving and wonderful plan as the one you had. One day at a time, friend, is the only real advice I have.
Hugs to you and Hannah.
Supa

Jill Schacter said...

About two years after Ken died, I started seeing Chuck. He was 12 years older than me. One day he asked me if I'd take him to the hospital to have some sort of cortisone shot in his back. (Nearing 60 years of age, he still ran about 8 marathons a year so his back was shot.) Something in me kind of seized up at the thought of going near a hospital. Could it have been Ken's two stem cell transplants that caused the reaction? I tried, I tried to get Chuck to find another person to take him, but he really wanted me. When I went to his hospital room after the procedure had been done, and saw him lying in that hospital bed, I just started crying. Basically, that pretty much ended the relationship. I just couldn't deal with the idea he had presented me with too soon in my grief recovery path. He was 12 years older than me and he was a mortal. It was too much.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Jill, I hear ya. It takes a while to get over that... Mr. Fresh is 9 years older than me, but in great shape, and that is about as far as I was willing to go.

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