Old love has grown, matured

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 4, 2002

Last February my wife and I were visiting Floyd Vial in St. Mary’s Hospital. It was, in fact, Valentines Day. Valentines Day, like most secondary holidays, easily slips by for someone confined to a hospital for a substantial amount of time. It slipped by for Florene who went every day from Austin to Rochester to visit her husband of many years. This, actually, is why we were there on this day. Several people from church had been taking turns driving this woman in her eighties over to visit a husband of a lifetime, and this was another opportunity for us. I went quite unprepared to receive a surprise gift, the gift of a precious moment to which we were to become privy.

The only frustrating thing about this joyful task was we had to keep telling Florene she owed us nothing for this little thing. It was more pay-back. She and Floyd had spent their considerable lives doing things like this for others. Now it was our turn. You owe us nothing, Florene: this is just dividends earned.

Florene seems to have forgotten the celebratory nature of the day. I’m not sure when it dawned on Floyd, but it came to mind. What to do now? Plenty of Valentines down in the gift shop, but he couldn’t get there. It didn’t seem quite right to ask his Valentine girl to go down to the gift shop and buy a Valentine for herself and pretend he had picked it out.

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Floyd is a very good patient, and it’s almost easy for the medical staff to be nice to him. I’m not sure I ever knew how the negotiations were accomplished, but Floyd got a nurse to use her break to hurry to the gift shop and picked out a Valentine for a very special woman. I was there when she passed it to Floyd, but I didn’t notice. Suddenly as Florene leaned over to straighten his pillow, Floyd produced the Valentine to a noticeably surprised Valentine girl.

She kissed him unashamedly. It was as strong and sweet as a young women getting her first Valentine from her first love. Which, in point of fact, this is. This couple, well into their eighties, are very much in love. Not "still" in love, but in a still-growing love.

Obviously, these long lives have seen many times of such thoughtful tenderness. Nonetheless, I had the distinct sense that this was yet singular. He had remembered her on Valentines Day, and she felt every bit his Valentines girl. They hugged, carefully as they must when wired up. They kissed as lovers kiss.

Adolescent sweethearts would laugh, I dare say. Or giggle. Valentines and romance are for the young, they assume. Young love, however, often dies as quickly as it is born. Years later they wonder if it ever was.

This, on the other hand, is old love -- love that has grown up and matured. Years later they wonder how they could ever have thought that early stuff was actually love. This is love. It’s a love that is never taken for granted and each gesture is as fresh as the morning.

Dr. Wallace Alcorn’s columns appear in the Herald on Mondays.