29 Jun 2018
Dorothy was living on the first floor of a two-family home in Brooklyn. Ken was a flight up, living with his family. And even though she was dating (and would eventually marry) another neighborhood boy, Lenny, she made sure to wait for Ken on the stairs in their shared home to give him a kiss before he left for the army. It would be six decades before she and Ken would kiss again.
They each married young, raised families, and had gone their separate ways. But Ken had never quite forgotten Dorothy and, upon learning of Lenny’s death, he reached out to her. Would she be interested in seeing him?
Dorothy chuckles as she recalls the question her mom posed to her so many years ago in that two-family home: “Why didn’t you give that boy upstairs a chance?” Well, now was the time for that second chance, along with that second kiss.
“We are never too old to join the dating game, even if it feels uncomfortable,” says Patricia Waldeck, a licensed social worker and certified sex therapist, speaking at a Vital Aging workshop on Love and Relationships, part of the Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service’s Aging in Place program. As naturally social beings, she affirms, “Love is a key ingredient to healthy living.”
No stranger to loving again, Waldeck also speaks from personal experience. Divorced after 30 years of marriage, she’s been remarried for the past 17.
No matter our age or relationship status, it is normal to crave understanding and intimacy. That’s why the Hebrew Home in Riverdale started G-Date (Grandparent-Date), as part of their mission to acknowledge and promote “sexual expression and intimacy” in later years.
Anne Weisbrod, Hebrew Home’s director of social services who oversees the program, notes that, “Just because you’re older, desires and feelings don’t go away.”
Kelly Dixon, age 76, agrees: “I’m not looking for a wife, but it would be nice to meet someone. You’re never too old for that.”
On Hebrew Home’s G-Date matchmaking questionnaire, residents are asked what they’re looking for in a match, how they like to spend their time, and what’s important to them. Based on their answers, they are fixed up on a first date in the residents’ cafe, overlooking the Hudson River.
According to Weisbrod, family members are also thrilled, knowing their parent has someone to spend time with, to hold hands or share whatever they like.
As with Dorothy and Ken, Bob and Joan met at a very young age. Perhaps too young. After a short engagement, they broke it off and went on to marry and raise families with other people. Bob married Lynne, a Broadway theater actress and soap opera star, who eventually became a salesperson with Julia B. Fee so she could be nearby for their three sons.
After a successful career leading several fashion and design companies, Bob joined Lynn as a real estate agent, becoming one of the first “couple agents.” Showing homes as a couple meant they could spend time together.
After losing Lynne to ovarian cancer, Bob admits to going into “great despair.” But, sometimes, stars do collide. Joan was reading about the passing of a wonderful woman in the New York Times one day, some 18 years ago: a moving tribute from a husband to his wife that brought tears to her eyes. And then she saw that it was written by Bob. Joan sent a note to him, “I’m so sorry for your great loss.” A note that landed in a box of condolence cards and that might have been forgotten if Bob hadn’t been looking for a friend’s address on the back of another envelope.
He called Joan, who suggested they meet for lunch. He had already rebuffed several friends looking to introduce him to other women. He’d spent his life with his soul mate. Why bother? But Joan was different. She was someone he had known well, who had clearly kept him in her heart. Bob knew he was lonely and the companionship appealed to him. So they met for that lunch, then a dinner, and more meals followed. A trip to Europe. Their affection grew.
Says Bob, “I had a wonderful marriage and my relationship with Joan was the icing on the cake.”
For Dorothy, who was 88 when she reconnected with Ken, their “magical” five-and-a-half years together – built on love and commitment – was a gift. And it sounds like it was for Ken as well, who wrote in a love letter to Dorothy:
Living with you these years has been
Like hitting a homerun
with bases loaded,
Like getting a three-point shot
in basketball to win the game,
And getting a hole in one on
the golf course.
After almost 70 years of marriage to Lenny, a new love came along, unexpected but very real. Says Dorothy, open your heart, “There is life after darkness.”