Philemon and Baucis

By Eva Haller

Long, long ago on a high hill in Greece stood a beautiful linden tree, its branches intertwined with a mighty oak. The two trees were once Philemon and Baucis, two young lovers whose love was so strong, their life so gentle, that when it came time for their departure from this earth Zeus granted their wish, and turned them into these two magnificent trees.

My father often told me this story as I was falling asleep, and I remember how as a child I envisioned my parents’ arms intertwined, walking down the Greek Hill.

My father called my mother Baucis, and my mother, who was not a scholar of ancient legend, somewhat reluctantly and quietly called my father Philemon.

I lived my first eighteen years with this tender couple, learning acceptance, care and quiet sexuality. When my father became ill, my mother became a full time nurse, and turned her love into devotion. They were a loyal couple.

So I learned about marriage from these intertwined trees, and it came into full use in my life’s story.

I married an amazing man, larger than life, brilliant in every way. He loved me bigger than life, and he stretched me, giving me self-confidence, applauding my achievements, and giving me courage to be more than me.

And then he died.

Life was not much fun without him, and sex was not interesting with anyone else, though God knows I tried to hide my pain behind acting out sexually. Sex is no fun without joy. Sex is not a sport activity, nor is it a way to develop deep relationship. We humans need other forms of communication and understanding to accompany the act of love.

I remember bursting into tears when a kind man put his jacket on my shoulders at a dinner party one night. The awareness of each other’s need is so important and meaningful.

Then after a few years of frustrating widowhood I met a man who equally suffered the loss of the love of his life. We found joy in each other, because we had joy in our past partners.

Finding new love and growing old together is simply wonderful. We are both eighty-seven years old and enjoy love making. Is it different than when we were younger? Oh, yes. There is gratitude, a huge portion of tenderness, a bit of fear, because what if we no longer have each other? Caressing an old body is softer, gravity has added its sculptural aspects, and the words accompanying sex are more gratitude and appreciation.

It is so interesting to note that when one talks to young people about having a sex life, there often is embarrassment on their part. As if one should not or could not have sex after a certain age. There is no time limit for caring for each other. No physical reason to stop wanting one’s mate.

Philemon and Baucis lived a very long time, they became stooped, wrinkled, forgetful, and each year they wanted more years to enjoy each other. The only request they had from Zeus was that they leave this earth together.

And so they did!