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Just before Bob and I walked down the aisle of the little chapel at St. Michael Catholic Church, I had a momentary flashback to Alicia Silverstone’s movie Clueless – the part where Cher gushes sweetly, “Old people can be so sweet!” Are we “sweet”, I wondered in near-panic, or is this early onset Dementia?
He had been married and divorced – more than once. I was a widow – more than once. If ever there were two people who should give this whole marriage idea some very careful consideration, it was us. But here we were, almost two years to the day after we first met. It was a union of two wounded souls, imperfectly healed and well past life’s prime, but hopeful as a pair of twenty year-olds. And now, some years later, it looks like it might have been a good idea – a really GREAT idea – after all. Here’s how it happened.
My husband died in my arms on our 25th wedding anniversary, and for many months afterward I functioned, but I did not live. I went to work, came home, ate whatever was handy, and went to bed. The next day, I got up and did it all over again, except for weekends, when I pretty much skipped the getting up part. When the anniversary of her dad’s death came and went, and I seemed, to her, dangerously mired in the grief process, my daughter nagged and nagged and nagged until I agreed to make more than my usual half-hearted effort to “get out more”. I joined my church’s singles group for people over 40.
Bob’s wife of almost 20 years had abruptly ended their marriage around the same time. He joined the same singles group, only somewhat sooner. By the time I came on the scene, Bob was a well-liked regular. He was funny and a little bit flirtatious – not enough to scare me off, but enough to make me feel flattered – and special. Some of the group played Canasta on Sunday afternoons, and that’s where I really got to know Bob. He made me laugh again. More than anything else, I remember how absolutely wonderful it felt to laugh again. There were a few complications, however.
Bob was a maintenance crew chief with American Airlines. I was a white-knuckle flier. He worked third shift; I worked days. He had never raised children, and although my four were grown, I was seldom without a grandchild by my side. And, just for a bit of comic relief, he was over a foot taller than me. We talked – on the phone and via instant message and e mail – for weeks before we actually spent any time alone. He had been dating someone else and we agreed that until there was closure to that relationship, we would continue to be “just friends”. I only wish I had saved all those messages. Bob’s quirky sense of humor was like gold to a miser. I looked forward to his early morning messages (he having just come home from his job and me getting ready to go to mine). I fell blissfully and easily asleep after his late night phone calls from the hanger, my mood lightened by his humor and my heart touched by his concern for everything from my health to my personal safety (Did I remember to lock the doors?).
Eventually we came out of the closet, so to speak. I introduced him to my friends and family, and he did the same. This necessitated some time on airplanes, however, since one of my sons lived in Ohio and Bob’s family was in West Virginia, North Carolina, and Washington, DC. Anti-anxiety drugs helped, and Bob was wonderfully patient, explaining every odd sound and assuring me that an unusually early descent did not mean the plane was crashing, but only that we had caught a tail wind.
Bob and I were careful not to get “too serious” for quite a long time, as cliché as that sounds. He didn’t want to risk another failed marriage, and I completely understood that. I wasn’t willing to move in with him, and he respected my issues in that regard. Everything changed one Sunday afternoon, while he watched TV and I cooked dinner. Feeling a bit neglected, I plopped down in his lap and said, “Say something nice.” His response took us both by surprise. He said, “I love you.” A few weeks later, he proposed.
We were engaged for six months- that’s how long marriage preparation takes in the Catholic Church. At one of our pre-Cana meetings, as the young priest asked all the standard questions, including “If you have children, do you promise to raise them in the Church”, I couldn’t resist a factitious reply: “If we have children, I promise to give them to the Church.” Old people aren’t always sweet, sometimes they are downright cheeky.
Since our wedding we sold his house and my house, to buy “our” house. We have retired (although my retirement is not, as yet, complete), traveled way more than either of us ever thought we would, laughed a lot, and argued a little bit, but not enough to make us regret one minute of the time we have had together. Though I would never sell young love short – breathless and passionate, we-can-conquer-the-world, spit-in-your-face, young love – I have to say that love after 50 has a lot going for it, too. No mortgage. No daycare. No fear of going bald (he was bald when I met him), or stretch marks and a sagging behind (he can’t see them without his glasses). He plays a lot of golf. I work part-time and mother hen my children and grandchildren. Bob says he is living his dream. Words (and I have a LOT of words) cannot describe how happy it makes me to know that I am part of that dream.
Well, these are two sweet stories. Colleen, thank you for taking the time to post this long tale...it is so nice to read something uplifting here.
Christine...looks like you two were just meant to be!
I loved your story, Carlene. I just turned 30 and I've been single for about 3 years now. I just started a discussion about this in another forum, but let me say that it's so encouraging and exciting to hear of people finding love and meaningful relationships no matter what stage of life they may be in. Those around me often make me feel like I am behind because I'm not married yet and don't have kids. I'm not even sure if I want either of those things!
So, thanks again. You story was inspirational.
Just read this, after you posted a link for it on Velma's thread. This is one of the most beautiful, sweetest stories I've read; thanks for sharing this! Just gave me goosebumps, and offers hope to others in similar circumstances.