Would you like to go somewhere beautiful?” I asked.
“More beautiful than this?” She asked, incredulous.
Raymond and Jennifer.
Raymond was married to Sophia for 63 years. They were inseparable and loved each other dearly but one day Sophia got sick and soon died. I missed the funeral as I was in China at the time of her death.
I had met Raymond through a mutual friend and our common love for wine made us good, if not close, friends.
A few weeks after the funeral, I bumped into Raymond and on his arm very close to him was Jennifer. I was quite surprised to see this as it was so soon. I acted as cool as I could and later made enquiries.
This is their back-story.
Ten years prior to Sophia’s death, Raymond had a heart attack and his prognosis was dire. Jennifer and her first husband were close friends of the couple. On hearing of his illness she visited Raymond on his deathbed and said to him,
“Raymond you may be dying but I want you to know that I have loved you all my life and I couldn’t let you go without telling this to you.”
Raymond did not die. In fact he made an amazing recovery and bounced back to good health in no time. A few years later, Jennifer’s husband died and when Sophia passed away Jennifer came to comfort Raymond and they bonded.
Six month later they were married, She in her seventies, he in his eighties. Whenever we met them they were always touching each other. Once when Raymond was out of earshot, Jennifer said to me, “I love him so much.”
Raymond passed away recently and it was heartbreaking to see Jennifer, bereft at the Shiva house. They had been married for nine years.
Roy and Rita.
I had just escaped from a horrible engagement to a woman I did not love.
It was 1970, the year of the Kent State University shooting of students by the National Guard. In protest, almost all the universities had gone on strike, Rita, who was studying at NYU, had time on her hands and decided to visit the UK and come to a family bar mitzvah in Scotland. My father worked for her cousin so I was invited to the event.
The party was standard fare, copious amounts of ordinary food, a second rate band and boring speeches but then I saw Rita. She was wearing a dark blue, polka dot dress, her long luxurious hair fell about her shoulders, her eyes flashed and she stood tall and elegant. She was devastating.
It was like the dance scene at the gym in West Side Story when the periphery blurs and you only see the couple.
I introduced myself. I probably said something stupid but as she didn’t reject me outright, I continued to chat and managed to spend the evening with her.
The next day I called her and arranged a date. We went to a restaurant called the Kiwi Lodge. It was nestled in a grove of trees in the Fenwick Moors; a wild, rugged area composed of windswept, unkempt tundra and brush that continues all the way down to the Irish Sea.
After dinner, I said, “Would you like to go somewhere beautiful?” She looked at me as if I was mad. “More beautiful than this?”
Little did she know.
The June nights in Scotland are particularly magical. A soft twilight (we call it the gloaming) starts about 11p.m. and lasts until 2a.m., when the sun rises.
We drove to Loch Lomond, through Balloch, up the east side of the loch towards Rowardennan. Loch Lomond is designated as a national scenic area. That night, with the moonlight sparkling on the water it was breathtakingly beautiful.
I stopped the car at the side of the loch and we went for a walk. The gloaming (remember that?) had settled in as we strolled. Rita in a challenging way said that a fire would be nice. (She afterward told me that she doubted I could make one. Perhaps it was my matching pale blue paisley shirt and tie that gave her this impression.) She was wrong. I went to the car, found some catalogues to burn and grabbed my guitar (which I kept in the trunk for emergency purposes only) and built a bonfire.
We sang songs until sunrise.
She was hooked, and so was I.
She stayed another week and we dated every night.
Rita returned to the US. We corresponded often. No phone calls then –way too expensive.
In September that year I came to visit for 3 weeks She was studying at SUNY Binghamton in upstate New York. After 2 weeks, I called my mother and told her I was staying there. I called my boss and quit my job. We were married in the local courthouse. Between us we had about $30 and we spent most of it on a lobster dinner.
Our marriage, now 47+ years has lasted because of the love we share and to me, Rita is still that drop dead, 18 year old beauty I took walking through the gloaming many years ago.