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By Tom Blake
As a columnist writing about love and relationships for 23 years, I’ve strongly advocated that single seniors know each other well before moving in together or getting remarried. That belief got seriously challenged this month.
On Sunday, March 12, my partner, Greta, and I had surprise visitors to Dana Point. Phil Williams and Sue Hamlin were classmates of mine going all the way back to the fourth grade in Jackson, Michigan, where Phil, Sue and I grew up. He and I were on the swimming and track teams together. She was a popular cheerleader.
They wanted to share some news that nearly put me on the floor: Sue and Phil were married on Feb. 24.
That announcement was the most surprising news I have received in years, maybe in a lifetime. Why? They had seen each other only once in the last 50 years, for 20 minutes or so at our class’s 50th reunion, and they’d had no contact with each other since then. They never dated each other. Phil lived in Palm Springs; Sue lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to where she had moved five years prior to be near her children after being widowed.
Seven weeks ago, on Feb. 1, Sue telephoned Phil to tell him that a classmate of ours she had been caregiving had passed away in January. Phil told Sue that his wife, whom he’d been caregiving for several years, had also recently passed away.
On Feb. 2, Sue called Phil again. This thrilled him as he had always had a keen eye for her, and her voice filled an emptiness he had felt for years. They spoke daily for the next four days. Phil said, “The conversations were getting serious. We both were lonely and both wanted to share our remaining lives with someone special.”
Phil continued, “On Feb. 7, I said to Sue, ‘You need to get on an airplane and fly to California so we can have a serious face-to-face discussion.’”
On Feb. 8, Sue emailed her plane’s arrival time: Feb. 24, 10 a.m., Ontario Airport.
Between, Feb. 9-15, marriage discussions emerged. Finally, Sue said to Phil, “If we are going to get married, why don’t you ask me?” Phil said, “OK, I just asked you.”
On Feb. 24, one hour after Sue disembarked from an airplane from Grand Rapids—together for the second time in 50 years—they were married at the County Clerk Office in Fullerton.
Their news stopped me in my tracks. I was dumbfounded. How could that be? What about my advice to get to know each first before getting married?
However, after seeing them together, hearing their stories and pondering their situation, I started to think this is wonderful. Finally, Phil nabs one of the prettiest and nicest girls in our high school class. Both are widowed and both have been caregivers. Now, it’s their time together. At our age, who’s got time to waste?
Phil said with a twinkle in his eye, “Sue and I passed Tom’s get-to-know-each-other-first advice. Heck, she and I have known each other for 70-plus years.”
I still advocate that seniors get to know each other well before making a commitment. However, I’m making one exception in Phil and Sue’s case. In May, after moving Sue’s belongings from Grand Rapids, they will make their home in Southern California. In the meantime, they are on an extended honeymoon right here in South Orange County.
I’ve often said, in searching for a mate, don’t forget to attend reunions and keep in touch with old classmates. What happens may surprise you, and everybody else who loves you.
Greta and I sure wish them well.
Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. See his websites at www.findingloveafter50.com; www.vicsta.com and www.travelafter55.com. To receive Tom’s weekly online newsletter, sign up at www.findingloveafter50.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.