I have been told by some of my older female patients that a good man is hard to find. And it's especially hard to find one when you are in your 80s and 90s.
"They're either married, dead, or taken," one woman said as she yanked off her ECG stickers.
Epidemiological data would seem to support this statement; men do not live as long as women. I know an 80-ish-year-old woman who organizes dances for her seniors club. At the start of a recent square dance, the men and the women stood at opposite ends of the dance floor as the music started. It seemed like junior high school all over again. Later in the evening, after dancing and perhaps some champagne punch, she went to the tables lining the dance floor to see how the people were enjoying the party. When she stopped at a table of couples, one of the women looked at her viciously, then put her arm around her date's shoulders and said: "Go along now, honey-these are OUR men."
Assisted living centers, I am told, are red-hot dating scenes. One patient's daughter told me that her father's assisted living center is like a college campus. When I asked one of my 90-year-old male patients about it, he rolled his eyes and said, "Beware of a widow bearing a casserole." I scrunched up my face, confused.
He explained, "There's a lot more widows than widowers." Widowers, it seems, are less interested in the chase, especially since they are the ones often being chased in the octogenarian and nonagenarian singles scene. Maybe the roles are reversed from the college campus days.
When my son, Greg, was applying to college, we drove together to see some schools in Boston. As we had the usual talk about what he wanted to do with his education, he complained that he wanted a break from studying. When I suggested that he take a year or two off before college, work a bit and gain some perspective and maturity, he looked at me as if I had been smoking something.
"But Dad, how would I meet girls?" he asked.
At the gate of Boston College, our third school of that day, we were both tired and he said he wasn't sure he wanted to even get out of the car to have a look. Just then, the women's cross-country team ran by. Greg stopped talking as they passed, then said, "I can look here."
Our trip probably prompted my strange nightmare the other night. In the dream, it's 50 years from now and Greg is taking the 90-year-old version of my wife, Carla, to see an assisted living center. I had died 20 years earlier of a massive heart attack after eating a dozen Dunkin' Donuts at my retirement party. Greg says, "Mom, you don't have to live here, you can live with us you know." Just then, a bunch of elderly men start running by in their loose-fitting sweatpants. Carla stops, looks around, and says, "I can look here."
I woke up in a cold sweat.