I’ve been reminded recently why I crave happy stories. The simple answer is: life isn’t happy. There are happy moments, and happy people. But, like a good story, we each have a beginning, middle, and end.
I was talking with an older gentleman and the phrase “Alzheimer’s” came up. As a former social worker in elder services, I am all too familiar with this word, and the ramifications it has on family. It’s been over a year since I left social work and the emotions still hit me right in the chest.
Here is this sweet man, with a sad halo around him. His beloved has Alzheimer’s. There is no getting better from Alzheimer’s, there is only worse. This couple may have the sweetest, most romantic story around of how they met and fell in love. They may have been together for years. But this is the end.
Alzheimer’s means that the wife’s memory will fade, and her personality may change. Constant supervision will become a reality. She may forget who her grandchildren, children, or even her spouse is. Days of sitting down to connect will soon be gone. Leaving only memories, to those that can still remember them.
I write love stories. My heart yearns for a good romance, a happy ending. But an ending of a book isn’t the end. There is always what comes next from “happy ever after.” In any love story, sans a disaster that claim both at the same time, one person is left alone.
This means, either the romance doesn’t work, or one half of the couple passes away before the other.
Now, I’ve seen elders who talk about their departed loved ones with a smile on the face. The happiness continues, in their hearts, as they wait for whatever reunion comes after life. It’s bittersweet.
Perhaps that is why love stories hold the popularity that they do. In the midst of stressful, crazy lives, it feels good to kick back, curl up, and read someone else’s story. There are pitfalls and strife along the way, but the last few pages are filled with happiness, and we leave our characters with a wide-open hope for happiness to follow.
We forget, for a moment, that reality differs.
One day I will write a story without a happy ending. I yearn for reality in my work and I know a story will come along that meets that yearning. For now I have written a story where a beloved character dies. It gives the novel a bit of the death/rebirth cycle: from tragedy comes something good, when one person leaves us another enters.
And for me, and my own immortality, the words are on the page. If I’m lucky they will make someone smile, even after my time here is gone.