WILSON: The Romance of Tommy Jones — It’s complicated

Romance at any level can be complicated, but at the levels required for Octogenarian romantic participation, it can get very complicated. Tommy Jones was a prime example of how complex, even the simplest of romances can get.

Every morning, Tommy joined the stimulating coffee and conversation at Sarah’s Diner, with a group of regular customers known as the Circular Congregation Breakfast Club. At 82, Tommy was the elder statesman of the group, and least prone to speaking his mind without having a few facts as back-up — the same could not be said about most of his cohorts. Also at 82, Tommy was the least familiar with the dating world — although, he was not far behind the rest of the bunch.

Harrison Winkle was retired, divorced, and had a surly disposition — which explained the divorce and lack of social life. Big John Hudson, the youngest of the troupe, was the most active on the dating scene and least accomplished – living with his mother at 32 was not helping his chances. Jimmy was a devout bachelor — and proud of it. Firewalker was married to a woman who knew he could be a better man — better than he could ever want to be. Arnold Tobin, the perpetual political also-ran, kept looking for his First Lady the way he ran his campaigns — without vision or effort. Mort was retired and happily married — as long as he had his breakfast someplace else and his dinner at home.

Tommy had been a widower for the past decade. At first, it was difficult adjusting to life without his beloved Helen — they had, after all, spent nearly 50 years together. But as time and life continued on, Tommy settled into a comfortable routine – doing his best to fill his life with activities and his thoughts with pleasant distractions.

However, life likes to hand out surprises to people that have forgotten how to be surprised. While grocery shopping, Tommy met a young lady of 72 by the tomatoes. Their eyes met, an awkward stumbling greeting was shared, and a senior romance began — along with the entire entourage of complications, befuddlements, and anxiety that accompanies any romance from ages 6 to 96.

Tommy and Helen had been high school sweethearts — by virtue of his virtue, Tommy had no clue as to how senior dating should work. After that initial face-to-face meeting, Tommy and his new paramour spent months getting to know each other — by means of texting. He never visited her, she never visited him, they never even shared an afternoon cup of coffee — they just texted. It was safe, simple, and Tommy didn’t need to worry if white socks went with plaid trousers — or if white socks and plaid trousers went with anything. Nearly every evening, the two would cuddle up in their recliners (on opposite sides of town) and share their thoughts about their day, their likes and dislikes, and an occasional questionable reaction to prescribed pharmaceuticals. She was knowledgeable, interesting, and as the evenings of texting rolled into weeks and months, Tommy found himself being curiously drawn to her.

After a few months of electronic dating, the members of the Congregation were running out of less important things for their breakfast debates, and decided to focus on Tommy’s big romance. Once a week, someone would ask about their status, why they haven’t met back up. Of course, Big John was certain there never was a Tomato Lady, and Firewalker started seeing a conspiracy forming.

“Oh, she’s real, alright,” Tommy assured the doubters. “She has her ways and wants to take things slow.” Sarah filled his coffee cup while Tommy continued, “Besides, we talk all the time — about everything. Maybe we talk too much. Last night, she told me she is getting new tires today. She told me three times when and where she was getting tires.”

“She told you when and where she would be today?” asked Sarah.

“Yep. She told me three times.” Replied Tommy. “Maybe we’ve been texting too much, she’s starting to repeat herself.”

“Tommy?” began Sarah, “Maybe you should put down that cup of coffee and head to the tire store.”

Everyone around the table looked up and realized what Sarah was trying to tell Tommy — it turned out that romance really wasn’t that complicated.

Larry Wilson is a mostly lifelong resident of Niles. His essays stem from experiences, compilations and recollections from friends and family. He can be reached at wflw@hotmail.com

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