« Modern Love

Only With Distance

2022-06-22 | 🔗

Nora Johnson had been making weekly visits to older man after he suffered a mild stroke. But he wasn’t just any older man. “We had the worst marriage in the history of human relations,” Nora wrote in her 2014 Modern Love essay. “Dysfunctional doesn’t even begin to describe it.”

During her visits, the memories would coming pouring back: the fights, the vacations, the plunging bank account. But Nora’s ex-husband had forgotten all that. He’d even forgotten her. And this blank slate had presented an opportunity.

Today, we listen to Nora’s story about reconnecting with her ex in spite of their painful past. Then, we meet another couple, Margaret Eginton Carmichael and Greg Carmichael, who learned to date again in their sixties.

Nora Johnson died in 2017 at 84. You can find her obituary in The New York Times here. And click here to read her first Modern Love essay, "Age is No Obstacle to Love, or Adventure," which remains one of our most read.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Had come home and we'd just sit on the couch together. Occasionally hedy cheat owes he loved them and- called them shrimps, because that's what he thought they looked like often he would fall asleep. It's important to just sit next to someone you love to reef their bowl with shrimps to be there because soon the other person may not be. This week's essay is about that type of care showing up being present in this case, after a very painful. We together it's written by nora, johnson and read. Suzanne Toren, one of the things old people do is visit, other old people in hospitals. It sounds dreary and it is dreary, but it has its benefits
If you can learn to read the gauges and dials, you will next time you are a patient, be able to find out how close to death you are. Nobody else will tell you. I keeping an eye on your vitals blood pressure, ejection fraction, and you can secretly rejoice that it's not you in the bed not yet these days, I'm making legally visits to an old man doctor. I once knew in a rehab facility. though the word rehab brings to mind drugs and alcohol. It's also for broken hips twisted, backs, strokes and so forth. This old man in his late eighties recently had a mile
stroke and he has some bladder problem and a nasty cough, but he can still walk and talk. He always had the gift of gab, though some of his jokes are antique now and then there are. The story is going back to the navy during world war to an yale and nineteen forties, tailgate picnics before the harvard game, So this is another reason to visit your ancient ailing peers. There's a nice wash of nostalgia to things that would put younger people to sleep. I like hearing all this stuff, even though I've heard it all before and lived it. I'm not sure the doktor recognises me when I walk in. He gives me a sharp look, then greets me, an uncertain smile. He doesn't say my name because he doesn't know
it is he's, asked me twice rather delicately and I've told him, but he forgets I feel he's fishing around in his imperfect memory trying to place me he for and that he was married to me for ten years. He has asked me a couple of times how I know justin our son in texas. Probably he thinks I'm just a nice lady who wonders in off the street from time to time to talk to him. We had the worst marriage in the history of human relations. Dysfunctional. Doesn't it Begin to describe it if he really remembered all the bad parts, particularly the heart, both divorce. Our present fragile friendship might shatter
We maintained contact over the years if our two sons, they have been graduations a wedding, christenings and also problems. Of course, I'd say we skated nicely through it all conferred with the shrinks wept at the graduations danced at the wedding, I'm a believer in good post divorce relations. It's the least you can do for those shattered kids. We even got through the suicide of our other son john. held onto each other. Cried blamed ourselves for everything, another kind of horror, but that was before this
koch now he's wandering through strange country. He was a psychiatrist and he peppers me with questions. What do I do all day? What am I reading? How is my health Do for exercise he's a skinny old man in a sweat suit, with wild white hair and some fragments of white beard. But the wide blue eyes are still there and in my head is a ghostly image of fifty years ago. It all comes back the four star, restaurants, snorkeling off jamaica, edna parties at christmas. We had parts of money until we didn't the children. It, brought us down to earth my
two daughters from my previous marriage and the two sons we had together. We didn't all fit in our apartment and moved to a big house in westchester from thereon everything deteriorated It would be too easy to cruel and, ultimately to boring to document the so called dynamics, fights knee abuse, police visits and terrible divorce. Let me close the curtain on all that I'll skip to afterward when I moved out with four wounded children-
I saw myself in a mirror and was shocked at how I looked lines and shadows and darkness. I was forty two, but looked seventy two slowly. I returned to my age. Why do you go visit him? A friend asked? How can you I do for just in I said he is supposed to be in charge of things, but leaves fifteen hundred miles away and out of general humanity, you two forgiving, my friend says, think what he did to you, his elderly girl. And visits him daily, but she has a few memory problems of her own. He doesn't like the idea that she is deteriorating.
this unwillingness may be partly the stroke, but he has always had trouble with reality. The caribbean resorts the flying lessons. The plunging bank account it's through reality is unglamorous and often grubby his all is romantic and he is a city cat. It was a mistake to expect him to change light bulbs and mow the lawn, perhaps even to be a husband and father ever the charming host. He wants to provide me with a little amusement
so we set out to see the aviary a couple of floors down. This turns out to be not so simple. He has left his walker in his room and also his slippers and he's supposed to have a key and a code number for some number pad to make the elevator work for the first time he freezes and his face becomes that cruel mask from the past, the one that somehow frightened then entire house. hold of people come on. He says to the nurses: I've been going down in this elevator every day. Give me the key gave me the code number his voice, a soft, but the rage is there. I can read him
well. I may not know the code for the elevator, but I know his. He likes me the lady who wonders in off the street and wants to amuse me. There is only the aviary and he can't even take me there, he wishes it were like. knowing that I were wearing coochie. Instead of l, l bein, he wishes the cups of cranberry juice, we're flutes of this key cool. Maybe if I had known the code during those long ago fights I could have tamped the flames, but I've been told often enough. I shouldn't keep replaying those old scenes.
Instead, I interrupt him in his nurse abuse. Let's forget it. I say it's all too complicated. Let's go back to the room, I start down the hall and he turns and follows me then, I hear words. I have almost never heard from him before I'm sorry Nora Johnson, the author of this essay died in twenty seventeen at the age of eighty four, her new york times, bitch wherein noted that she published piercing, memoirs and novels about families under stress, nor also another modern love essay about finding love when you're older, and to this day it remains one of the most
I read essays in the history of modern love, check it out. There's a link in the show notes, a quick scroll of saks dot com as your guide to shopping the best spring fashion, you'll find curated to make getting dressed everyday, easy, brows, effortless, bohemian dresses from free people and Zimmermann and trending spring denham styles from four, and good american plus the latest party ready bags from saint lawrence and valentino. There are new arrivals weekly for top designers, you love and new emerging names on sacks dot com. You can shop for everything you need for spring now and pay later with klarna plus you'll also get free shipping and free returns every day on sax start I'm lulu garcia navarro the host of first person a show from, times? Opinion We hear the word opinion. We often think of hot takes appointed
in reaction to the news, but what about the economy answers that shape people's opinions. I would definitely consider myself during that time, conservative. I was tired. As lulu. I don't know how to answer that. It's hard to explain your life to somebody. Who's, never heard it before. You know what I mean. week will introduce you to people whose stories help us understand a complicated world, because every opinion starts with a story. Yeah. We should unionize and again Pressure is actually a felony. That's part of the story and a lot of ways. How did I blame myself pregnant? I poured my wife to becoming a strong pastor this diagnosis was telling me you can't be there anymore. First person and wherever you get your podcasts, The
yeah. Here's a story from the vows section of the times about a couple who just got married in story of their relationship. It's about figuring out how to date, all over again in your sixties,. hi, I'm Margaret egon, tin, car, Michael and I and I was city iowa. My name is a great car, Michael and I live in, I was city. And I used to live in a neighborhood. I used to go to a bar, fantastic restaurant run by my son, called up ray. I pray, which was across the street from my house, so my daughter kit is hung from knowledge, where maybe now in this spring or summer of two thousand sixteen, and we decide to go over to operate to have dinner.
I did notice so make she is very striking. Looking and this man came over and he starts talking to kick his interest, You know what I did and I told her that I do. research in the interface between air pollution and climate change, I have like zero idea what that means. and afterwards kid instruments as well, he's really boring Maybe he's just really shocked. And we didn't get the right question so probably about two months later. I end up sitting next to Greg, because the bar Very crowded- and he starts asking me all these questions and I'm telling him while I lived in new york for twenty years and that you'd say she was a professional they observe, then he is asking me like. What's it like to be a dance,
How many hours a day did you dance and then what happened after that all or was it a blue dinner with the Jagger asked me on these questions and I said to him: are you interviewing me? I think he said I have to go upstairs and an babysit, my grandpa, and that was sent to a few more months, go by and I see greg occasionally and ah suddenly, out of the blue one night he walks over to me and he says apparatus having a valentine's day dinner. Would you like to go, and she said yes and I mike you, don't ask somebody out for a valentine. state, unless you're interested in them and for some reason he texts me when evening came. I also invited another of.
Bar friends by martini. Drinker town is coming with us, and so is whether the three of us at the table- ok, love, then it's definitely not a day if he invited pan and then at the end of dinner, which was delicious. He walked me home When a guy walks you home, it generally means that he likes you Then. I didn't hear from him for again for a long time so a year later, several months go by later. That spring invites me to a lecture an indian dance before we could go to a movie. Have this big neighbourhood party and I felt like I had to invite him and then there was another trip to the movies begging me to join her. He still not talking to me much and we're not touching, but were nearly touching by really feel closer to her without really knowing what that and I thought shirley hell com, but he did.
We had another long gap in time again or was it a date was not a date and I thought somehow we keep ending up doing things once in awhile, but he doesn't really want to go out with me so that fall. I was sitting at a high top because greg said the bar. I think we were like the only people in the a strong I haven't heard from him. I don't want him to think that I want to talk to him or anything a load. The moment just said I need to get up and go, go see. and I walked over there. I said hi agony, he said, but what, if we break up. That was the first thing out of his mouth. That was the first thing out of his mouth. What will happen if we break up? I talked about
things in my feelings about dating and fear of, I want to date, but I m fraid of we date will lose this ceo, and I just looked at him and I said well, I guess we'll avoid each other's lockers he said well, what do you mean- and I said you know like in high school when you break up with somebody and then you just avoid each other's locker. So you don't have to say hi or anything, and he said I never dated in high school It was clear like I just I understood. He really is the shy. He really doesn't know what he's doing. Unlike wow, I put my head out and grabbed her hand. I remember looking at it. I remember thinking it through. my head out and grabbed her hand amber looking at it. I remember thinking it through and I thought well.
when he gives you a hug. It's like the biggest warmest most open hug. You ve ever gotten and his hand was like that and then he put his other hand on me and really that and then he put his other hand on me and really that was it mean I fell in love with him. The moment I put my hand in his Greg finally went in their first official date soon after that called it margaret and gregg say that the locked down strengthened their relationship and this past Margaret and Greg say that the lockdown strengthened their relationship and this past February they got married. Couple still live happily in iowa city, even though
Prey has very sadly, closed. On the next modern love stories, more woman who thought she knew her mother until a handwritten note changed everything. That's next time, Modern love is produced by Julia botero and hans butoh. It's edited by Sarah Sarah's in this episode, mixed by dan Powell. The modern, The music is also by dan powell it'll production by the human body in special thanks to Anna diamond at bottom invincible, about margaret and gregg in the vows alan and a diamond at autumn and Vincent Bulotsky, who first wrote about margaret and greg in the balance column from march two thousand and twenty two The modern love column is edited by dan jones and love is the editor of modern love projects
Martin thanks for listening.
Transcript generated on 2022-06-23.