Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Jeri Lynne Swank holds a bottle of vintage 1999 Xtabentún fermented honey in Cozumel (photo by Bill Swank)

I first became acquainted with Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the early 1980s when a friend gave me his highly acclaimed One Hundred Years of Solitude as a gift. I don’t remember anything about the book.

What I thought I remembered was wrong.

In 1999, my wife and I took a Caribbean cruise. I thought I brought a copy of the Garcia Marquez novel, Love in the Time of Cholera, but can’t remember anything about that book either.

I got out the photo album and realized I read Of Love and Other Demons on the cruise. I knew “love” was in the title and now remember that Señor Garcia Marquez had some unusual ideas about love.

I did learn about Xtabentún from Of Love and Other Demons. I bought a bottle of this fermented honey aphrodisiac for my honey when we stopped in Cozumel. It was the preferred beverage of the Mayans and their gods.

Nothing like a nice, cool Xtabentún before an afternoon of decapitations and heart extractions, reportedly an ancient act of love and nourishment for the gods.

Like Gabriel, the Mayans had some unusual ideas, too.

But love can be found in unlikely places like a recent newspaper clipping a friend sent about a historic baseball team. On the same page was an advice column for middle-aged dating.

According to this middle-aged dating columnist, the perils of online dating and scams for seniors are real. Love can be found, but it ain’t easy… proving that some things in life never change.

Most of his advice seemed to focus on “older” lonely women who were well beyond my definition of “middle-aged.”

I remember the advice of PCL Padres home run slugger Jack Graham: “If you take a woman out for dinner, the next thing she’ll want is for you to take her on a cruise.”

Of all my male friends, I can think of only one with a serious heart condition who continued to behave like a horny high school sophomore. Remarkably, he found a good woman who loved and cared for him until the day he died.

The rest of my single “old fart” friends prefer to remain that way, so my wife and I learned a long time ago not to play matchmaker.

We have several single women friends. They are all good women and seem to be coping well without men.

One is a bright single woman in her 80s who has been divorced for almost 40 years. About 20 years ago, she decided to give up on men. As a divorcee, she experienced fun and heartbreak playing the dating game, but it wore her out. Today, she is content with her garden and dogs.

Another woman, an angel who lives in a small Midwestern town, spent most of her later married years caring for terminal relatives: both of her parents, her in-laws, aunts, uncles, her older brother and her husband who died four years ago. She is very lonely. A high school classmate who lost his wife has taken her to lunch a few times, but she is concerned about what people might say.

A beautiful woman I knew at work was always surrounded by male suitors. Eventually, she got married, divorced and now prefers to live alone on a comfortable pension. When asked if she misses her previous lifestyle, her answer was to the point. “At my age, I don’t want to be a nurse and I don’t want to be a purse.”

A high school friend of mine died 13 years ago. He’d been in poor health for years and his wife took good care of him. She’s a good Christian who has since devoted herself to helping others in her family, her church and in her community. She always has a smile and a hearty laugh, but she still misses “her man.”

Another close friend died in 1994. His wife suffered from mental illness. The poor woman “heard voices” and knew they were talking about her. They were a childless couple and the wife’s problems continued after becoming widowed. I helped her move four times to escape the voices. In 2019, she developed dementia and I was appointed her trustee. As a widow, she preferred to live alone and the subject of male companionship was never discussed.

My wife has a dear friend whose blowhard husband cheated on her and walked away. It was devastating, but the friend continued to work, maintain an immaculate home and yard and care for her faithful Golden Retrievers. The loyal dogs have since died, so she made the adjustment to living alone.

Another friend was married to an older man. They enjoyed travel and having fun, but then he died. She’s now in her mid-70s and remains active and upbeat. Her husband had kids from his first marriage and they have become even closer to her since his passing. She is touched that they are so concerned and willingly help with chores she can no longer do during the coronavirus quarantine.

Bottom line: Finding love in the time of coronavirus at any age has to be difficult. Here is some parting advice on the subject from centenarians who played the game of life into extra innings.

“I have two boyfriends – just because I’m 100, doesn’t mean I don’t like men.”  – Kathy Hampton (100)

“I have a lot of boyfriends. That’s the way to stay young.”  – Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses (101)

“Stay away from men. They are more trouble than they’re worth.”  – Jessie Gallan (109)

“I credit my long health to cigarettes, whiskey and wild, wild women.” – Henry Allingham, world’s oldest living WWI veteran (113)

“I stayed single for 80 years.”  – Emma Morano left an abusive husband when she was 37 (117)