Tuesday, February 13, 2018

True Love Saved Me From Being the Neighborhood Crazy Old Lady – A Valentine’s Day Story

I’ve talked about it before, the choice I gave myself in 2010. Give “true love” one more chance, and if it didn’t work, spend my time polishing up my Crazy Old Lady skills.

One has to understand that I grew up in places that held fast to the theory that there is a crazy old lady in every neighborhood.  I’m sure it was unkind, used to demean and ridicule an elderly person, living alone. For kids it was a kind of mythology. In Brooklyn, it was the woman who lived “down the block” at the corner. Hers was the last of the row houses, secured by a high, chain link fence. Her front door was a long set of steps up from the sidewalk, and we were convinced she used her lofty vantage point to spy on us.

If we were to hang around outside her house too long, for example, playing in one of the huge puddles that often formed in front of her house, she would come rushing out. With messy gray hair and a wrinkled housedress, she would scream at us from on high to get out  of that water and away from her house.

There was also the woman with the baby carriage, who would go down our alley, and pick through our garbage. The legend was, that she was really very rich and dropped off at one end of the alley and picked up at the other end by a chauffeur. However, we were too scared she would see us to check.

Having already made one foray into the character by chasing potential dog-fighters out of my front yard with a broom, I knew I could do it. But, I still wanted to give that “true love” thing a try.

I’d dated quite a bit after my divorce. The general atmosphere of this period of time was that anyone “my age” was interested in dating, having laughs and adventures, but no interest in commitment.  For the longest time, as I was getting my children through high school and beyond, that was fine with me. But one day, I realized that it was only me, the dog, and the cockatiel in the house. And I began to feel the desire for more. I didn’t want to continue with the casual dating circuit, so, I signed up for an online trial of a dating site.

I specifically stated I wanted to meet someone who lived close, and was interested in a friendship that would lead to a long-term commitment. I was immediately beset by men from distant states, even foreign countries, who professed to falling in love with my irresistible photo. They wanted to come visit and on and on. Scammers, every one.

And then there were the creepy guys. One claimed to be a married, “defrocked priest” who had to be home in the evenings to take care of his disabled wife. However, he was sure we could have some “meaningful afternoons.”

The only person I agreed to meet was intelligent and funny. Two points. He was local to me! Another point. We decided to meet at a Starbucks midway between our homes. The only problem was, it turned out that the Starbucks listed for that location was actually a take out stand in a grocery store. I sat in the parking lot. Tempted to just leave, but not wanting to be rude, I figured we could at least have a laugh and reschedule.

The laugh was long and hearty. The smile was genuine. We noticed a Chinese restaurant in the shopping center, and our first date began. We found some real coffee shops to meet at after that. We went down the shore, toured the Twin Lighthouses and then spent some nervous minutes back tracking to find my bag that I had absent-mindedly left beside a historic cannon.

There were long walks and long conversations. Introductions to the family and in less than 3 months, we were inseparable.

This summer marks eight years since I delayed becoming the neighborhood crazy old lady. Five grandchildren have entered our lives. We said goodbye to the golden retriever I had once looked in eye and said, “It’s just you, me, and the bird.” We’ve weathered a couple of scary health issues, and dealt with car repairs and house repairs. We count our pennies and laugh with friends. It is knowing that “happily ever after” is what holds you together when things are not so happy. It is knowing you have someone who connects with you heart, mind, body and soul.

So, on this Valentine’s Day, and every day, I send love, laughter and gratitude to the Love of My Life. May we have many more years together.


Crazy Ol' Me

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