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Romance Begins at 80 Says Kirk Douglas on His 91st Birthday
By Kirk Douglas
As I tottered past ninety, I learned something very important about love.
I found that when I was young, I was incapable of deep love because so much of me was wound up with myself. Romance for me really began at eighty and improved every year.
Seriously. The older I have gotten, the more romantic I have become. I think this is in part because I think less of myself and more of Anne. In a long marriage, too often, romance is forgotten. But without romance, a marriage loses its vitality. To keep your marriage vibrant, dare to be romantic. Women love surprises. Trust me!
If you annoy your wife in a squabble and she says something like, "I'm going to leave you," don't wait to find out if she means it. Quickly say, "If you ever leave me I'm going with you." That will bring back her smile.
Often, I pick the most beautiful rose in the garden for my wife and I put it in a small vase on her bedside table. I write love poetry that would make Shakespeare wince, but -- lucky me -- Anne cherishes my poems for all occasions.
Here is one that is included in my latest book "Let's Face It:"
Romance Begins at 80
And I ought to know.
I live with a girl
Who will tell you so.
I sit by her bath
As she soaks in the tub.
Then I help her out
To give her a towel rub.
She likes that a lot
But before I tire.
It's time to pour the wine
And start lighting the fire.
As the fire crackles,
We talk of the past
We met over 50 years ago
Did you think it would last?
The glasses are empty
The ashes are red
Thanks for a lovely evening
But it's time for bed.
All love songs deal with the travails and rapture of young love. They ignore the beauty of old love that has passed the test of time. I sing of a love that I have never known in my youth. A love that has surmounted all the difficulties and still prevailed. So don't just give your wife a little peck on the cheek. Say, "Honey, I want a hug." And then press her to your body in a firm embrace.
If your wife works at an office, as mine does, from time to time call her and sing, "I just called to say I love you," and hang up. When you go to bed and your wife's feet are cold, don't hesitate, let her rub them against your leg or back. The rewards will be fantastic.
When you are having breakfast in a hotel, don't forget to split apart the croissant and spread a little butter and honey on it. Don't eat it; offer it to her. You're never too old to play games. Sometimes, on a weekend morning, I just loll in bed. The French call that faire la grasse matinee. The French always have a word or two on bed behavior. I know; I met my wife in Paris.
Anne and I are lucky because even though we have had our health challenges, we are both mentally sound and go every day to the gym. In fact, our trainer is in his nineties and is older than us!
I was very touched by a recent story about Sandra O'Connor when her husband of 55 years had to be put in an Alzheimer's unit. That is very sad, but she dealt with it with love and dignity. How would I deal with such a situation? I don't know.
Alzheimer's is an ugly disease. Imagine being with a loved one for 50 years and suddenly he doesn't know who you are. The pain is born by the one who doesn't have the disease. The one with Alzheimer's is oblivious of his relationships.
In 1992 I took over the Alzheimer's unit in the Motion Picture and Television home. I call it Harry's Haven in honor of my father, who by the way, never had Alzheimer's. People criticized me, "Harry's Haven?! Sounds like a saloon."
My answer, "My father would approve of that, he spent lots of his life in saloons." My purpose in taking over Harry's Haven was not so much for the people suffering from that awful disease but to help their husbands, wives, and children who were doomed to live with a loved one that didn't recognize them. To live under such conditions is a task not many people can bear.
Harry's Haven provides a sanctuary for people in our profession afflicted with Alzheimer's. They are housed in comfortable quarters with their first names and pictures on the door of their room. They are supervised by trained personnel. Many relatives come to visit them even though they are not recognized, but they want to be assured that they are well taken care of. Many of the occupants develop new relationships.
People were amazed to read the plight of Sandra Day O'Connor, when her husband was placed in an Alzheimer's unit. She visited him periodically.
Of course, her husband didn't recognize her but she accepted his attachment with a female patient. They held hands constantly and for the first time in a long time he seemed to be happy. Justice O'Connor sat with them as they held hands. She was gratified that at last her husband seemed to be content. You have to admire the strength of Sandra Day O'Connor's character to deal with such a situation.
There are other examples of dealing with a spouse who has Alzheimer's. President Ronald Reagan wrote a letter to the world, while he was still able to think clearly, that he had the beginnings of Alzheimer's. I remember seeing him at that time, we went to the same gym.
I had known the President since he was an actor many, many years ago. I was leaving the gym and I met him coming in, I greeted him, "Good morning Mr. President." He gave me a big smile, "Hi!" I was sure he didn't recognize me. It was shortly after that, that he wrote his letter to the press revealing his illness.
As the disease progressed, his wife Nancy insisted on keeping him at home until the end. What an inner strength Nancy must have.
There are many ways that people deal with this tragedy. Harry's Haven is only one way of dealing with it, let's pray that they will find a solution to this awful disease.
At my age, 91, the thought of developing Alzheimer's is a frightening one. Not so much how would I deal with it, but how would my wife deal with it. I think about it and then push the thought out of my mind. Love is, after all, the most important thing in life.
Source: Kirk Douglas
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 10, 2007 /PRNewswire/ --
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