I have been much encouraged that one of the most influential
women of my time, my developmental years, Gloria Steinem,
had married for the first time at 66. I was so excited when Mom
told me this!
I am going to share another older couple’s story: Lee and Phyllis.
They were both on their own and struggling with different issues.
Lee was needing a fourth heart surgery done and was not considered
a candidate. Lee is 58 years old and lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
Miles away, Phyllis, was struggling to accept her loss of independence.
Her family had limited space, her own home was too much for her, and
she had some minor health issues. The fact she could not see well
meant she would be missing her ability to drive and get around. She has
a lot of spunk (“piss and vinegar” she herself says!) for age 71.
While Lee went through another massive heart surgery with the newest
procedures possible at Cleveland Clinic with a great doctor, Phyllis moved
a lifetime of belongings into a one bedroom assisted living facility. She
was determined to not cry as her family moved boxes and boxes into the
place she would call her “last home.”
Two weeks after surgery, Lee had been released from the clinic/hospital
and had spent a week with his daughter and son in law with around the
clock help. They had followed through with every therapy appointment
and then, when they heard he had a setback, the therapy department
and his heart doctor said he would need to go to a nursing facility close
by and have more complete coverage of his complications and therapies.
Both Lee and Phyllis lived in a long, multiple corridors, and many winged
building. The chances that these two peoples’ paths would cross very often,
if at all, were slim.
One morning the physical therapist had Lee look at the list of activities
that the nursing home had to offer. She handed him a marker and asked
him to circle at least 3 activities that she would start him off and help
hold him or guide his walker but he would choose to go to. He chose the
following in the first week there: gardening in the greenhouse, Euchre,
and a night performance of a Jazz Quartet.
Lee went to the gardening activity with his physical therapist who later
passed him off to the occupational therapist. She would watch how his
hands worked, if both sides of his body were responding the same after
his heart repair work. Then, the physical therapist walked him back to
the wing where just temporary residents were.
The Euchre game tables were all full when Lee came to the activity two
days later. He was deciding that he would just sit down to watch when
the physical therapist gave him another thought. She said, “I need to
have a walk with that woman, Irene, at that table. It looks like you
will be at a table of three women, sound okay to you?” She winked!
Lee glanced at the women as he saw the physical therapist walk to
the table. He could not hear the discussion, but knew his name or
his person was being mentioned, because four sets of women’s eyes
were looking his way!
He also noticed a petite, white haired woman with bright blue eyes
was part of that quartet. Now, saying this to someone I know, he
thought, “I hope she is not the one who has to leave the table!”
It was like the song, “Some Enchanted Evening” from “South
Pacific” with the words, “across a crowded room.”
He thought he felt a little flip of his heart or stomach.
Irene and the physical therapist left and he approached the table
since he was nudged as the physical therapist passed him. Again,
The ladies each introduced themselves to Lee and he shook each
lady’s hand. He memorized only ONE name: Phyllis!
He was not her partner, but he quickly was caught up in the Euchre
game and they all enjoyed it thoroughly. It seemed five minutes later
when the physical therapist was again nudging and pulling this time
Looking back, Lee cannot believe how open and he felt, “blatant”
he chose to be at that moment. He shook each woman’s hand again
and said, “Glad to have met you.” As he came to the last woman,
he insisted, “I hope you will join me, Phyllis, at the Jazz Quartet
tomorrow night. Will you sit with me, since I don’t know many here?”
Phyllis (telling my brother this) was a little taken aback but smiled
and said, “Of course, Lee.” She also added to my brother, “I was
only being polite!”
When they sat together later that night, their arms barely touching
each other, they say they KNEW they were meant to be together.
They knew each other less than a year and they were married on this
Valentine’s Day, 2013 at the Cleveland Clinic. Lee and Phyllis will
reside in a home together after their honeymoon. The families are
packing and taking Phyllis’ things to Lee’s house.
Their almost 14 year age difference doesn’t concern family, friends
nor the couple.
They know now to make every moment count…from this day forward
they will start a new life together!