It Is Never Too Late

By Dr. Patricia L. Bay, Psy.D.
Published in W Magazine, September 2011

She sounded upset when she called. "What's wrong, mom," I asked with concern. My dad, her husband, died almost two years ago after 62 years of marriage. I have heard my mom upset many times since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about ten years ago. My mom has braved all the changes and the loneliness of losing her life-long partner. She is a very strong person, but heartache hits even the most stoic.

"I've met someone and I don't know what to do," my mom said quietly. Since giving up her home and moving to the retirement residence, she has met lots of new people and made many new friends. I did not understand why this was any different.

"Okay," I replied hesitantly. "What's the problem?"

"He's a man," she wailed and began sobbing. I smiled. Good thing we were on the telephone.

"That's wonderful, mom. So, again, what's the problem? Are you afraid Dad would be upset that you have a male friend?"

"Heavens no," she fired back. The tears were totally gone in an instant. "I just have no idea how to do this."

I gulped, "do what?"

"Date," she responded. I sighed with relief. "He asked me to go on a picnic with him and I don't know what to do."

"Can he drive?" I inquired with total awareness of the irony of that question. I flashed on myself at 16-years-old asking to go on a date with a boy and her asking me about his driving. "How old is he, mom?"

"He's a year older than me." This made her new suitor 84-years-old. "Of course he can still drive," she said with that irritation in her voice that coincides with all the discussions about her driving. "He's a very good driver." I knew this meant that she had already been in the car with him, but since she is not 16-years-old and I am not her mother, I didn't go there.

"I already checked him out," my mom stated with authority. Again, I gulped.

"Checked out what?" I said hesitantly, again, relieved to be on the telephone so my face would not give away my feelings.

"Well, one of the first things he asked me was if I had diabetes. His wife died of diabetes complications after they'd been married 61 years. I told him that I did not have diabetes. I asked him if he had Alzheimer's," she stated with assuredness. "He does not, so I told him I would go out with him." I smiled.

Watching my mother's relationship unfold with her new friend has been wonderful. I notice his eyes light up when he looks at her. I see a smile cross her face that has not been there in many years. I am so thrilled to see that people can be twitterpatted with each other at any age. It is never too late.