Me, the soon-to-be-twice-divorced love cynic, writing a story about love! It no doubt seems strange, but love stories interest me. Not the sappy Hollywood type, but the very real ones that involve real people — particularly those close to you. You might be surprised to find that within your own family there are some of the most fascinating and beautiful love stories. I know I was.
One that has always touched me was that of my grandfather, who at age 80, found love for a second time. Except there was an interesting twist to the story. The girl he married was also 80, and she was a teenage sweetheart he had loved and lost many years before.
My grandfather had come to Canada at the age of 12 during World War I, and never returned to England, learning to fend for himself in this country. As a teenager he lived largely on his own, working and going to school, where he met “Pearl”. Although he had a crush on Pearl, she already had a boyfriend. Life soon dictated a different path for my grandfather and he came to Western Canada, met my grandmother, married and raised a family. Pearl stayed in Ontario, and also married and raised a family.
My grandparents had the good fortune to be able to travel extensively after they retired, and on one of their trips to Ontario, re-connected with Pearl. A few years later, my grandmother passed away, and as Pearl had lost her husband about the same time, she and my grandfather began to correspond and visit. Soon we received an invitation to their wedding. At a reception for them one of my aunts expressed feeling a bit odd about the whole thing as my grandmother had not been dead for a year, but then she put it into perspective — how many people get a second chance at love when they are 80?
My grandfather and Pearl enjoyed almost ten years together, travelling and spending time with family on both sides of Canada. I came to know and love Pearl as well, and it was wonderful to see my grandfather happy and busy, enjoying himself, and as he approached 90 years old, it was wonderful to see that he was not alone. Sadly, Pearl’s health began to deteriorate, and finally my grandfather reluctantly took her home to her family in Ontario. She lived out her final years out in a nursing home, no longer able to recognize my grandfather or remember any of their time together. He, on the other hand, is getting set to celebrate his 100th birthday next month! But he is alone, and although family comes to visit (not often enough!), it’s not the same thing as having a companion.
Perhaps this is what drew me to another love story. This one came from Donna Hanover, author of a book entitled, “My Boyfriend’s Back.” Hanover, wife of former New York mayor Rudi Guiliani, experienced a very public and painful divorce when her husband admitted to an affair. Soon after, Hanover was surprised when an old friend, Ed Oster, looked her up. They had been sweethearts at Stanford University some 30 years previously, and after reading about her divorce, Oster, by now also divorced, decided to look her up. The romance was rekindled. Hanover, an accomplished actor, writer and television host, and Oster, an attorney, found love the second time around.
Hanover used her own story as the basis for the book, but it contains many similar rekindled-romance stories. Her website, www.myboyfriendsback.com, has collected stories from more than 600 couples who have found love again with a childhood flame, including several other well-known actors and writers.
Hanover suggests that lost loves that come back may even be the best ones, since old high school sweethearts “see behind the wrinkles and wattles,” remembering “who we were, not what we have become” (Haas, 2005). She points out that our identities are being developed during adolescence and young adulthood, and after going through this developmental process together, a very special bond is formed. Those of us studying social learning and life development theories may see some validity in this notion — certain events that happen during key developmental points in our lives do affect us in profound and enduring ways.
After reading this, I found myself thinking about my past “loves,” wondering whether I would ever want to entertain a renewal of one of my younger romantic relationships. I’m not sure I would — but I certainly wouldn’t mind meeting up with a few of the guys I knew back then — mostly out of curiosity about where they are now and what they have become in life. Websites like classmates.com are becoming very popular, and I confess that I occasionally check out those from my high school years.
Unfortunately, even if I were so inclined, I doubt I’d have much success trying to connect with an old flame, and I don’t have Hanover’s kind of high profile story that might motivate one to look me up. Of those whose whereabouts I’m aware of — almost all are happily married family men. There’s only a few who I’d want to look up. One in particular was my best friend, someone I loved dearly and had a very special relationship with between the ages of 16 to 19. We were never sweethearts but I think we could have been. Yes, I would have loved to look him up. Sadly, he died of a brain tumour a few years ago, leaving behind a lovely wife and several beautiful children.
There was another good friend; both his mother and mine wanted us to marry, but the spark just wasn’t there. I’d be inclined to look him up, in fact I had occasion to about ten years ago. But he’s happily married and seems likely to stay that way. Other than that, I can’t think of anyone I knew back in my younger days who might be a potential rekindled-romance.
The rekindled-romance with someone who knew your younger self is a lovely idea, but I doubt that it happens very often. I would think that it was something you only see in Hollywood movies — except that it did happen to a beloved member of my own family. Hanover’s romantic tale may seem like the stuff of fantasy, of romance novels. But who knows? It might happen to you one day!
Haas, J. (2005). Searching for love again in all the old places. Edmonton Journal, May 27, 2005.
Hanover, D. My Boyfriend’s Back: True stories of rediscovering love with a long-lost sweetheart. http://www.myboyfriendsback.com/