I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s different for men.
One of the advantages of having lived through multiple decades is the ability to look back and reflect on past and current changes in our lives. Most men seem to place those events into simple categories such as youth, education, marriage, kids, jobs and retirement. On the other hand, many women have a much broader perspective of these subtle changes occurring all around us.
Seldom talked about among older couples are subjects such as health, sex, socialization, relationships and the fear of dying. Many men think they’ve got it all figured out, but in reality, seldom do.
You could probably sub-title that period in their lives as: The fourth quarter, the final lap, final tabulation and/or reflecting on those who have died before them. Men have a lot harder time dealing with this final chapter in their lives and all the accompanying accoutrements of a life long lived.
Class reunions can be poignant reminder that a lot of our classmates won’t be joining us for another decade of remembrances. The decades pile up and our ‘Camelot’ period of work or the service or youthful adventures soon becomes ancient history.
If we men are lucky enough to have someone beside us: new, previously-engaged, or a veteran of the long haul - we can better face that final curtain with the comfort of companionship. Usually two pairs of eyes and one good brain can better focus on the time ahead.
Women seem better equipped for this later stage in life. Perhaps it’s because most are natural-born multi-taskers. I don’t know if it’s the result of a lifetime of caring and nurturing of others; kids and parents alike or more ease and comfort in social engagement. Women seem more intuitive, with common sense instincts about the circle of life. Wherever their strength comes from, many women have proven more adaptable to the twists and turns of our later years.
The recurring mantra, repeated among the smarter set toward their spouses, seems to be ‘Now, don’t you get old on me.’ Women have this constant concern that their other half will begin to show the signs of old age. Growing rigidity, a lack of flexibility, a lack of tolerance for younger generations, concern for rising prices, social changes and a seemingly disregard to the tried and true that was good enough for their own generation. Many old men think they should be listened to simply because they’re talking. ‘The old men at the coffee shop’ (one of my favorite whipping points) is a case in point.
Time can be a cruel reminder of life’s frailties and that ticking time bomb called lifecycle. Sometimes it just makes sense to stop and listen to what’s being suggested by one’s better half instead of trying to figure it out all by yourself.
Said the old man still trying to listen as best he can.