Falling in love at 94 years of age
Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt is in love. Just as flowers bloom in the spring and leaves fall in the autumn, it is the forces of nature that move men and women to fall in love. Schmidt’s love life has attracted attention not just because of his prestige, but also because of his age. Schmidt, who served as the prime minister of West Germany for eight years from 1974 before reunification, turns 94 years old this year. It is certainly not so common to fall in love during this stage of life.
But there is no age limit for love. When Goethe was 74, he fell in love with 18-year-old Ulrike von Levetzow. Recently, “Eungyo,” a novel about a poet in his 70s with an admiration for a teenage girl, sparked controversy in Korea. Helmut Schmidt’s wife passed away two years ago, and he fell in love with 79-year-old Ruth Loah, who had been a personal assistant for Schmidt for 57 years. The two currently live together, but their relationship is no scandal compared to Goethe’s love for Ulrike.
In various opinion polls and surveys, Schmidt never fails to top the “most respected politician” category in Germany. And he is always associated with smoking. He is a heavy smoker, who used to appear in news conferences smoking when he was the prime minister. His smoking habit has been a subject of controversy, but he has not given up on cigarettes. He still politely asks to be excused and smokes in public. He openly says that he has never tried quitting. Non-smoking is the global trend, but those cigarette lovers who have lived older than the average life span may be allowed to enjoy smoking as an exception.
Germans respect and adore Schmidt because he is intelligent and firm in his beliefs. He never tried to flatter or please the public when he was in office or after his retirement. He was a Social Democrat, meaning he had moderate-left beliefs, but he firmly opposed excessive expansion of union authority. He went against the party’s stance and supported the construction of nuclear power plants. He even smokes during television interviews, but the German viewers still listen to his opinions despite the smoke. Maybe, they thought they should bear with his smoking habit in order to get wisdom out of the aging politician.
As we grow old, we often ask ourselves, “What helps make elderly years enjoyable?” The happiest way may be to be able to choose your own life. It may seem absurd or unreasonable to others, but when you can make your own choices and live by them, your life will be happier than ever. The power of decision is not easy, but crucial. Helmut Schmidt is a happy old man and is in love at 94.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Bae Myung-bok
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