This article is featured in the Nov. 9 issue of the Magazine.
Dating at 91? That was my initial response to my longtime friend Donald, a psychiatrist, who like me is 91. But I agreed and began preparing for the double date he'd proposed. Donald had been married for a year to June, and the woman I was to escort was an old friend of hers — they'd been graduate students together at Brandeis years ago. We were to see Verdi's Macbeth, a Met opera being aired simultaneously at theaters across the planet.
I admit to having second thoughts. I am a widower; my lovely wife died in 1988, and a dear companion I'd known for 20 years passed away last year. Was this to be three on a match? I have two stents, a pacemaker, a panicky bladder, a tricky quad tendon recently reattached to my knee, and a daily regimen of pills. I could drop dead at any time, I thought. How embarrassing would that be on a date? Then again, I had managed to stay alive in hostile waters as a Radioman Second Class aboard the USS Bangust, DE 739 during World War II. Surely I could risk it? As for my daily assortment of medications, I'd just bring along an extra day's supply, I reasoned.
As I don't drive, my date picked me up, and the conversation came easily. I mentioned that I'd moved to Concord from Roxbury in 1957, when my Yankee father-in-law found a place his daughter and I could afford. There was a pause, and then my date said, "That was the year I graduated high school." Now I paused. I looked over at this woman, her steel-gray hair nicely coiffed, her cute wrinkles well powdered, handling the driving with aplomb, and thought to myself, "My God, I'm robbing the cradle."
Once at the theater, I excused myself for a trip to the men's room. Then came my next dilemma. Like Macbeth himself, I was "cabin'd, cribb'd, confined, bound in To saucy doubts and fears." We had to climb 39 steps to get to the only desirable seats. Closer to the screen would have been better for my bladder, but not good for listening, so up we went.
In the middle of the second act, with Banquo, blood-spattered, calling for revenge, my bladder called for relief. Off I sped like a tortoise, down the 39 steps, making it by a hair. My quad took those steps like a high jumper.
At intermission came another journey down to meet with Donald and June, who, having arrived late, were sitting up front. Also in attendance was a friend of my date — probably there to get a peek at the relic accompanying her. I was doing my best not to act my age. I think I picked the wrong decade.
Acts 3 and 4 went by without a hitch. The singing, the staging, the scenery, and the acting were magnificent. What an opera Verdi could have composed of my own plight, I mused. Think of the drumbeat as I mastered the staircase. And the arias — one of torment, the other of relief.
At the opera's close, down the 39 steps we went again. Now it was off to dinner. The wine flowed. The conversation flowed. Everything flowed. My disappearances were never mentioned. The drive home was uneventful, and in many ways this evening of panic was no different from a lot of dates I'd had when I was a teenager. And to think I'd almost begged off.
I hope she calls. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow . . .
Edward J. Bander, a retired law librarian, is author of firstname.lastname@example.org.