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Thoughts While Walking the Dog
Memories of a Jewish Childhood
By Lynn Ruth Miller

I Have a New Love Every Day

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life for which the first was made.

Robert Browning

I fall madly in love every day: exciting, buoyant and daring passion that overwhelms me. I love the intensity; I cherish the thrill. I never tire of it. Ever. I am almost seventy five years old. I have no husband, no partner, no children, no family. Yet I am showered with affection, covered with hugs and kisses. I give away my favors freely and often because I know these romances are the kind only an old woman can enjoy.

I am desperately in love with Leo. He visits me every day and gives me sweet kisses. He changes light bulbs and he fixes my front gate. He feeds my puppies and takes me for rides past his old haunts to tell me stories about the days when he was young and I wasn't around. And what do I do to deserve this love?

I exist. Evidently that is all he wants from me and so I am determined to keep existing for a very long time. I don't want to lose all that wonderful attention.

Leo is at least twelve years younger than I and has a superb, gentle, giving wife. Her name is Carol and I love her, too. She sends me little cakes at Easter and platters of food on special holidays. How could I NOT love her?

She gives me knitting advice and has shared not just her husband but her son with me. He helps me with my computer and laughs at all my jokes…even when they aren't funny. The fact is that Carol loves me too. She loves that I make her guys feel important when she is too busy at the office or out with her own friends to worry about the state of their emotions.

My dearest sweetie pie is James. He is an engineer at my television station who sees to it that my program set is ready and perfect for filming every single month. James is as loyal to me as any human being can be. When I give a party he is there. When I present a show at our local coffee house, there is James, listening, applauding, encouraging… very, very there.

Whenever we have a spare moment in our busy single lives, we go out for a drink …soft drink that is, because James is a recovered alcoholic and does not want to go back where he once was. We talk about nothing much and we hold hands because we love the safety of being with each other. James is 76 years old and has been through several wives. I have discarded a few husbands in my day and we both remember how messy those broken commitments can be. We hug, we kiss, we hold hands and we laugh together, but neither of us would dream of sharing a bed or greeting one another over the breakfast table. We have been there and we have done that with other people in other places. We have had our fill of commitment. We know that the freedom we two have is our lucky charm.

My most adorable and funny love is a guy named Mickey who makes me laugh and treats me to dinners even when he could have a sexy little hottie to take home to bed. He gives up these evenings because he knows how comfortable it is to be with someone who doesn't want him to prove a thing. He is a perfect person to me and I do not want him to change. I want him to be exactly who he is. When Mickey and I go out, he gives away clothing and money to the homeless on street corners. He is not rich, but he always has coins and cash to give to a fellow entertainer in need and he doesn't want thank yous. He has brought up his son and daughter alone and has done such a marvelous job that they feel proud and happy to be themselves. I think he is a saint. I treasure Mickey for what he teaches me, although I am the one who is supposed to be showering wisdom on him. I learn from his giving, his compassion and his selflessness; he profits from my persistence, my optimism and my proof that if you live long enough, your happiness can only multiply.

I have a toy boy, too and I am proud of him. His name is Steve and he is not yet thirty. He surfs; he loves women; he once did drugs and struggles not to return to them. He wants to have adventures, become a millionaire, go to the moon. When he goes out with women his age, they make demands he can't fill. They want physical proof that he will adore them forever. They demand, they have tantrums and they weep. They forget to notice how wonderfully perfect he is because of his flaws. Steve walks his dog with mine and we discuss stuff. We don't always agree but we laugh a lot and we care. We differ in our politics and in our definition of the good life, but so what? When our walk is over we kiss goodbye and we each go our own way. When we meet again, each of us has grown a little and has added something new to who we are. And that is an exciting thing.

When I was in my teens, I could never get the guy I liked to like me. I was too worried about the pimple on my face, the sag to my bottom and the condition of my page boy bob. When I finally landed a husband, I was consumed with the desire to be the best wife in the universe. I cooked elaborate meals; I cleaned every inch of our apartment. I entertained his friends. I had sex whenever he wanted even if I was in the midst of scrubbing a floor. I even served him breakfast in bed.

And then he left. I was too much for him and I understand that now. During that horrible, tense and mildly hysterical time of my life, I never once asked myself if I wanted to cook those dinners, scrub those floors or have sex with this guy who burst into tears when he failed a test and threw things at me when we disagreed. I was too young, too insecure, too …too needy.

There were other failed marriages, other shattered romances and I never knew why they didn't work. I wanted love more than anything in the world. I didn't realize that I was putting that well known cart before the horse. First, you meet the person, then you make a friend. Then you fall in love. I cannot repair my unhappy, unfulfilled twenties and thirties…and I wouldn't want to try. I know that I was not in the right place for real romance. I didn't love myself enough to be loved.

Now, I am delighted with me. Lovers flock to my door and I receive them with open arms. Love after seventy is the best kind of bargain because nothing you give feels like it costs. I have never cooked a meal for Leo or James. Mickey and Steve take ME out for dinner. I had Gordon over for a birthday dinner and he walked out without helping me do the dishes! I never invited him back. When my first husband did that, I didn't have the self respect to say, "Hey buster! I cooked…you clean."

When Bob asked me to mend his shirts, I handed them back and told him to buy new ones. I don't need to do that for anyone unless I WANT to.

Lucky me.

I admit it. My loves come and go like buses on a schedule. I greet them, I adore them and I kiss them good-by at my front door. Then I return to my own quiet bed with my puppies to cuddle and a book to read. Even so, I can barely sleep for excitement. What new Romeo will I discover on my walk through town? What adorable sweetheart will I capture when I open my e-mail?

When you are my age, lovers love loving you because they know you can show them the secret of happiness.

I've told all of my darlings what it is and now I will tell you. The secret of contentment is to find someone new every day and offer him a piece of yourself. It is to tell a stranger how much you admire him; to treasure every human you encounter and make him a friend.

All mankind love a lover.


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