He Only Had Eyes for Her
We've all heard the old saying, "Love comes along when you least expect it." I've probably written dozens of columns on the subject since "Tales From the Front" began 34 years ago. (That's not a typo -- "Tales From the Front" has been around since 1985!) But every time it happens, it's a little miracle.
Joe is 69. He says his dating was "sporadic at best." He attended an all-male high school and then studied business at a commuter college where the male-female ratio was 20-to-1.
"I never took to bars or parties. My favored activities were running, biking, reading and writing. The closest I ever came to making a commitment was with a woman I dated for 15 months when I was in my late thirties. Marriage loomed, at least in the lady's mind, but I bailed, figuring that if this was all the emotional punch love had to offer, it wasn't worth the price. After that point, I kind of gave up and concentrated on my hobbies. I felt a bit hollow, but when you're saddled with immense pride and sensitivity, what are you going to do?"
Ten years ago, Joe developed an autoimmune disorder that makes walking and other forms of physical exertion challenging. He's not able to live alone, so he moved into a retirement home.
Two years ago, a new housekeeper started to work there. Susan was a year older than Joe and had been laid off from her managerial job. Her shift started at 6 a.m., but she would arrive at 5:15 to have breakfast in the dining hall. Joe, an early riser, would join her.
"We got acquainted over the course of many conversations. More useful, yet, I got to watch her interact with the other residents and staff. Through all this, I never sensed any of those subtle signals that she wanted me to quit hovering and get lost, so I didn't."
Susan told Joe she'd had one long-term relationship. When her fiance broke their engagement, she was devastated. "According to her older brother, she seemed to withdraw from the dating scene after that."
The relationship between the two of them "just clicked."
"There was the time when I stood by the door as she came in one predawn with a couple of female coworkers, both of them younger and prettier. It was only later in the day when I realized, Whoa! I was so engrossed in her that I neglected wishing the others a good day. That line, 'I only have eyes for you,' is sometimes true."
For Valentine's Day, Joe made Susan a CD with romantic songs by Frank Sinatra. "The handwritten sentiments on the accompanying card were pretty slick, too, if I may say."
Being "moderately analytical," Joe decided to make a list of all the traits he admired in Susan. "I was up to 13 before I quit. I'd listed intelligence, warmth, thoughtfulness, sense of humor, taste in the arts, work ethic and love of nature and animals, among other things."
They're planning on getting married next year and moving into a new home together. "I can do much of the sit-down labor there. She can handle the outside work."
So Joe will soon be leaving the retirement home. That's a move very few people ever make.
What are the best and worst gifts you've ever given or gotten? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out my e-books, "Dear Cheryl: Advice From Tales From the Front" and "I'll Call You. Not."