*****WARNING – PLOT SPOILERS*****
What is true love? This was a question that flashed through my mind as I watched the credits roll from the movie ‘The Notebook’. While the plot was trite and clichéd – rich southern girl falls in love with a poor lumber yard worker, their romance suffers a setback as she is sent off to college and her lover’s letters are intercepted by a ‘well intentioned’ mother.
After seven years of waiting, the southern belle, Allie, moves on with her life, falls in love and gets engaged to a captain of equal wealth and of southern heritage.
The hero, Noah, enlists, loses his best friend and returns home after an all-too-brief war interlude to find that his father had sold off his house, taken a loan and bought a dilapidated historical house which Noah had desired to rebuild from scratch and live in with Allie.
Noah begins to rebuild the house with passion renewed once he discovers that Allie has found someone else. After the house is rebuilt Noah turns away prospective buyers and as a result is featured in the daily paper which Allie happens to see.
Realizing that her feelings for Noah were still unresolved despite her engagement to another she goes over to see Noah. Old embers are ignited and despite the last ditch effort on Allie’s mother’s part Allie decides to return to Noah and they live happily ever after as the elderly narrator of the story reads out to an elderly lady.
While the youthful romance is cheesy, IMHO, the actors manage to carry it forward smoothly due to good acting. But it was the poignant interaction between the elderly couple that held my attention.
Living in a retirement home, “Duke” tries to make Alzheimer ridden “Miss Hamilton” remember her past by reading out their romance from a blue notebook. This parallel love story clearly relays the obvious frustration that Noah felt due to his wife’s evanescent memory and his tender love for her.
It was this love story that made tears come to my eyes as it reminded me of the love between my grandparents. My grandmother had a benign tumor in her brain which the doctors were hesitant to operate due to high blood pressure. Over a matter of months her condition degenerated and she lived an unresponsive life, almost a vegetable, for the next six years.
My grandfather had refused to put her in a nursing home and continued to interact with her as if she was a normal person. He would read books and sonnets to her every evening, talk about times past and show her photographs.
They had been married for over forty five years and had gone through the trials and tribulations of the Partition of India in which they had lost everything. And yet they managed to bring up for capable children who had flourishing careers in various lines.
The biggest regret of my father and his siblings was that by the time they had come into money, my grandmother condition had degenerated too far and she couldn’t be pampered as they had wished their mother to be.
My grandmother had come from a rich family, had married into an equally rich family but the wheel of fortune decided to turn and she had gone through very hard financial times and yet through all that she had been a strong supportive mother and wife.
My grandfather told us tales about her resourcefulness and resilience while we watched him feed her. The tender way he wiped her mouth when the food dribbled down her mouth or the gentle squeeze he gave her hand while they watched the news on the tube testified to the deep love he still felt for her.
My grandmother’s death came swiftly one morning and she died in the arms of her husband surrounded by her four children. I clearly remember him holding her fragile body and shedding silent tears.
Three years later he too died a broken man. After his wife’s death he had shunned the company of his friends and gone into a self-imposed exile to another state as he couldn’t bring himself to live in the house where his wife had died.
This brings me back to the movie. Just like my grandfather the elderly Noah couldn’t bring himself to spend one day without seeing his wife. The love that the young couple had shared seemed to have evolved over the years to true love.
And what is true love? It is what was shared between my grandparents as by elderly Noah and his wife. It is those loving moments that elderly couples enjoy knowing that the days they spend together are precious and cannot be taken for granted. It makes each smile and squeeze of a hand more tender than the grand passion of young love. (Microsoft Word converted ‘more tender’ to ‘tenderer’?!)