I didn’t listen then and I wasn’t going to listen now . . .
“Gram, it’s different now . . .
It’s not like it was when you were young . . .”
“Jenny, when I was your age I had already been married to your grandfather for . . .” she started and I had to stop myself from throwing my phone across the room .
The woman was 83 years old and had only been with ONE MAN her entire LIFE . . .
She met gramps when she was 16 and they were together for over 6 DECADES before he passed just under 6 years ago . . .
She never had to deal with texting and tinder and men who are terrified to even talk to you because they don’t know the difference between flirting and sexual harassment . . .
She never lived in a world where men refused to commit because they knew their next date was just a few taps on a phone away . . .
Or had to compete for Grampa’s attention with porn . . .
She had no idea what it was like to be 39 and single again and terrified of being old and alone and . . .
“You have to make him chase you, Jenny,” she said . . .
And I even though I knew she was trying to be kind I felt this bubble of frustrated rage bursting up in my chest and what came out of my mouth was . . .
“HOW????,” I practically yelled. “Everyone always says that but HOW, Gram, HOW???” by . . .
“Your grandfather,” she started and I couldn’t help it, I cried . . .
“Grampa practically worshipped the ground Gram walked on. He was always doing little things for her, leaving her notes, talking about how beautiful she was to anyone who would listen . . .
And he always seemed so happy whenever she was around. I was there at the hospital when he passed . . .
When he looked her in the eyes and whispered “I love you” with the last of his breath and died . . .
Whenever anyone asked what she did to make him act that way she would just smile with her eyes and say “I guess I just got lucky,”
“What are you doing tonight?,” she asked, kind now because she heard my tears . . .
“I don’t know. Probably just Netflix. What about you? Are you playing cards or . . .”
“Oh, no I have a date with this man who just moved into the complex. I think he’s too young for me. He’s only 72 but he’s funny and he’s got a nice body and he keeps asking me out so I figure why not.”“What about Jim?,” I asked about the man I thought was her “boyfriend” when she introduced me to him a week ago . . .
“Oh, him? We still spend time together but I told him I wasn’t interested in being tied down right now. Life is short! OK, honey, I really do have to go.”
“I love you,” I said in something close to shock.
“I love you too,” she said and I could feel the warmth of her through the phone as I curled up in a ball on my bed and thought about Jeremy and the three months we spent together and cried.
“Jenny,I love you . . . I do, but I’m not ‘in love’ with you. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what changed but I just don’t feel it the way I used to. I’m so sorry,” he said . . .
And then he was gone and then I was 39 and broken hearted and single and alone again while my 83-year-old Grandmother spent time with her “younger man.”
I thought about going back to Tinder and online dating and guys who play “games” and I wondered what I was doing so wrong . . .
3 days later we were at her place playing Rummy 500 and she was beating me the way she always did . . .
“No way, Gram,” I said . . .
“No, no. Not on the cards, she said. Gambling is only fun when I think I might lose and, no offense honey, but you’re awful at this game,” she said as she put down three jacks, three aces, three kings . . .
And then she asked me a question that felt like it came out of nowhere and made me feel a little bit nauseous and lonely just to think about . . .
“Do you know how many more women there are than men in retirement communities like this?,” she asked.
And I thought about it. I mean, women live a lot longer than men so . . .
“A lot?,” I guessed.
“A lot,” she said. By the time you’re my age there’s more than twice as many women as men. And most of good ones are dating ten or twenty years younger because with so few men around they can get away with it.”
“You tell me I never had to deal with dating because I’d only ever been with your Grampa Frank and he treated me like a queen,” she said.
“Did you ever think for a second that the reason he did that is because I knew what I was doing?,” she asked.“Do you maybe wonder why it is that I have men chasing me in my 80’s when most women my age know full well they’re going to die alone with their cats?” “I love you, Jenny, and I’m not going to be around forever. I hate seeing you so sad when I know you don’t have to be if you just get out of your way and let yourself act like a woman.” “So here’s the bet, honey: You do what I say when it comes to dating and men for ONE MONTH . . . you still have all that credit card debt, right?,” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, feeling the weight of it on my chest suddenly. $12,471 I didn’t think I could ever pay off.
“You listen to me for ONE MONTH and if at the end of that time you don’t have this Jeremy guy or any other man you want ignoring other women and CHASING you then I’ll pay off your whole debt for you.”
“Can you afford that?,” I asked.
“Your grandfather left me very well taken care of,” she said. “You’re going to get a lot of it in a few years anyway but if I can’t help you . . . if I can’t show you the truth about men and how they’re the same now as they ever were I’ll give you enough for your credit cards now instead.”“Deal?,” she asked thrusting her wrinkled, delicate hand toward me over the kitchen table.
I thought about my credit card debt.
I thought about Jeremy . . .
I thought about the the hell of online dating . . .
I had nothing to lose . . .
“Deal,” I said . . .
We started that very afternoon . . .
“There’s one incredibly important thing you need to understand about men if you ever want to find someone who treats you the way your Grampa Jon did me,” she said like she was teaching school again the way she did before she retired . . .
I bit my tongue thinking she was going to say something dumb I’d heard before. Something about how men need to “hunt” . . .