Today at work, while fighting a rather icky cold and trying to appear completely normal, I got to help a gentleman we'll call Johnny. In his mid 70's, you'd never know it from looking at him. During our conversation, he told me he regularly went to the gym and "worked it hard." He was fit, funny and in full use of his faculties. He was trying to solve a dilemma and was a bit disappointed in himself that he had had to come in for help.
He told me that his wife used to take care of all this stuff, that he never wrote a check until he was 63. In fact, if he tried to pay something, arrange a doctor appointment, she thought he was saying she couldn't do her job well. One day, when he was 60, he and his children had stumbled across a shopping bag filled with bills and creditor letters, and that was when they figured out her secret - she had early onset dementia. He'd had to take it all on and was glad to do so. He told me that he'd met her in school when he was 17. He knew right away she was his girl, and there was no going back. He said his friends had told him he was a sucker, but he didn't care. They got married, had three children and a good life. He did special things for her, not for her, but for himself, because to make her happy brought him joy. She died 12 years ago, he told me.
He told me that five years ago, he met another woman. She's married though. He said he follows her around like a puppy, drives her on errands, helps her weed her yard. They've never done anything inappropriate, he told me. He's not that kind of guy. It's enough to be in her presence. I said, forgive my question, but where's her husband during all these errands and weed pulling sessions. He said that he stays inside or goes out with his friends or tells them to have a good time at church. He's spent more time at church thanks to her, again just to be around her is enough, not because he's gotten religion.
He told me that he'd never push the idea of divorce with her, because he didn't want to be the reason they broke up. He also knows she'll never leave, because she has too much to lose. He said that she talks about how they're going to move to Florida in a couple years, says it matter-of-fact to him. He figures that he'll be sad when she leaves, but then it'll be done. She tells him to find someone else, that she wants him to be happy, but he tells her he's happy the way things are. He's a simple man.
I kept openly weeping throughout his story, wiping my eyes and sniffling. He'd say, oh did that part get you. And then he'd chuckle a little. Eventually I asked him what he wanted to do about his original problem, and he told me to let it go. He said he'd never told anyone, even his children, what he'd just spent all this time telling me. Then he told me that he'd come back in a month and we could talk some more.