My mother is an introverted dynamo. By that I mean she has managed to hide how shy she is in order to make a name for herself in business, and money for her family. She reminds me of the Donna Reed character, Mary, in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Without her ‘George’ (really named Roger) she may have ended up a skittish single librarian. Roger, my father, with all his charms and pedigree, was not a good breadwinner. Mom, called OJ, eventually tired of the shoestring approach to raising 5 children, and headed off into NYC to start a successful business career that put a kitchen addition on our old Victorian, and took us all to Bermuda two times, just for starters. It turned out, not only did she join the ‘old boy network’ seamlessly, but she liked it – a lot. As the years passed, she and Dad moved hither and yon for her new business opportunities, finally settling and retiring in Maine in their seventies. Roger never begrudged OJ the role she had taken on, but sometimes I’d hear her wish for a break in the decision-making. Wouldn’t it be nice, she’d often wonder, to have him choose the restaurant? Oh well…
Four years ago, when OJ was 83, Roger died from a lung disorder that snuck up on us all. He was sweet and docile until the end, and we miss him very much. OJ was, and is still, so vibrant, embracing all life has to offer. Eventually, she moved near us in suburban RI to be close to her youngest grandkids. We saw her often, but much of her time was spent reading in her wingback chair alone in her apartment. OJ loves to be around youth and vitality, but her apartment building was seniors only. It was increasingly clear that loneliness was setting in, so, being the sensitive and meddling daughter I am, I suggested she join the website: www.seniorpeoplemeet.com, and set up a page. She was game, but not too savvy on the ‘how-to’s’, so I happily obliged. It doesn’t hurt that my mom is one of the most youthful octogenarians I’ve ever seen (I deeply hope that I carry those genes!), so I was certain she would be quite sought after. I posted a photo, see above, of her sitting with my then 6-year-old daughter, Olivia (named for OJ which stands for Olive Jean, but Mom never liked the Olive, so Olivia was chosen instead), and then we browsed through the five gentlemen listed in little Rhody. The only one Mom liked was a white-haired man who I thought resembled an older Spencer Tracy. He had a wonderful profile message describing a symbiotic life to my parents’ overseas in Asia during post WWII. He had also been a Dean of Students at a college, walked with a cane as OJ does, spoke of a love of travel, and generally seemed a great fit for Mom. So, we wrote to him…and wrote again. Nothing came back. Hmm, was he not interested? Away? Taken? Um, or worse…OJ waited from March through April for a response, then in a moment of exasperated inspiration, she figured out how to navigate the site solo and wrote one last entreaty: “Meet me for coffee at Felicia’s in East Greenwich.” Little did we know that the fellow we were writing had his own dutiful daughter monitoring on the other end. Mom’s missive reached her immediately, and she responded swiftly herself with the name and phone number of her dad who’d been away in the Grenadines for a few months.
I must digress here to fill in a few facts. My parents were ‘inexperienced’ when they married in college, and they were together for 62 years before Dad died. In those months after his death, my sister sent the first season of “Sex and the City” to entertain my mom, knowing full well that Dad would have hated the series and the f-bombs throughout. Mom ate it up. Marg, my sister, then sent all 6 seasons, and in May of 2008, we both took her to the movie on opening night. OJ was filling in major gaps in her knowledge of modern day sexuality through this franchise – and loving every minute of it!
So, back to getting the phone number of the man she so wanted to meet…OJ said, if not for “SATC”, she would never have had the nerve to call up a stranger and drive to his house for lunch – alone! Boy, is she glad she did. She and now 93-year old Bill have been inseparable since they met in May 2009. I know this because when she moved in with him that November, and I cleaned out her refrigerator, I could see it had not been opened once in all that time. The lovebirds have made many trips in these two years including a boat ride up the Rhine and Danube Rivers from Budapest to Amsterdam, and one through the Panama Canal. They lovingly care for one another, read books together, entertain often, and have a great time watching football over a bottle of wine. Bill was a Colonel in the US Army, and as a result, is very decisive. Mom loves that. She is all aglow and sparkly around him, and is thoroughly delighted to go to the restaurant of his choice. As she said in her holiday card the year she met Bill: “miracles do happen”.
Being old doesn’t mean you’re done. Do you have a story of finding love late in life?
(This article was previous published in part on More.com)