A widower does it right
Today's newsletter is a positive story about John who got the dating thing right after his wife of 40 years passed away. He was 63. He grieved and healed for three years before trying to date. John's story is filled with sage advice for any person who has been deeply involved in a relationship and then loses their mate.
Toward the end of the column, I respond to John's letter to me.
John said, "My wife died on Valentine's Day 2010 of a sudden, massive heart attack. We had just finished lunch and I was changing the bed sheets. We had been married 40 years. I became a lost soul and for three years slowly healed. I did not date and made no attempts to socialize other than with family and a few close friends. Other than work my only outside activity was golf twice a week in a men's league.
"Reading your weekly newsletter became part of my healing process and I looked forward to Friday's email. Since I was afraid, yes afraid, to venture out in person, I thought I would try an online service to get my toes wet. I wasn't very serious about this but I wanted to have a face-to-face conversation with a single woman to see what someone else's experience was like.
"I joined Senior Match (I was 66 at the time) in March of this year. After looking at profiles and sending a few emails, I saw Valerie's profile after she had looked at mine. We had many similar interests including movies, music and intellectual curiosity. Her profile was not syrupy but straightforward as was mine. And we are both Catholics which I preferred.
"She lived 90 miles away. The distance factor was a hedge for me. I wanted to meet but I figured it would allow for an easy out. Now it just makes for a longer way to travel for a date. We agreed to meet at the school where she teaches and I took her for a late lunch. We talked for two hours and we exchanged phone numbers. Then we walked and talked for another hour.
"The following week we went to Mass at her church, had breakfast and saw a movie. We have been dating steadily ever since. She met my sisters-in-law and two nephews at a Memorial Day bar-b-que at the club where I live, and my sister and my two sons on the 4th of July weekend. We did Disney with my oldest son and my four-year-old grandson that weekend and on the way back talked quite a bit about the future.
"We began to spend weekends together (separate rooms) to discover the little things about each other that can make or break a relationship. We discussed these topics at great length. We both wanted marriage but wanted to be sure. I was.
"Valerie, 63 (in November), (four years younger), is attractive and intelligent and has a great smile but what really won me over was her attention to little details in a positive manner. For my part, I tried to demonstrate that I would always be there for her and with her. We went to Naples, Florida, for a long weekend for my birthday in September and decided we were ready to commit to each other. Valerie and I are engaged to be married; we just bought the engagement ring.
"When I started this process I made a pledge never to compare Valerie to my deceased wife. It wouldn't be fair and most likely would have been toxic. I have stuck to that. My first marriage was wonderful and will always be wonderful but this marriage will also be wonderful. I told Valerie that my goal is to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary together and then add to it. We plan to wed either at the end of December or early next year.
Thank you for all the positive information you have provided with your newsletter and I continue to look forward to Friday's email.
Tom's reply to John: Wow! You are an incredible man. What a beautiful email. It made me feel that the effort I have put into the newsletters and newspaper columns over 18 years has been worthwhile. I never know if my messages are meaningful to readers; you made me feel that at least some of them are.
You did it right. By right, I mean you honored your deceased wife by healing for three years. Your sentence, "My first marriage was wonderful and will always be wonderful..." actually makes it possible for you to move forward with Valerie with an open mind and clear conscious. Your pledge to never compare Valerie to your wife is wisdom that all widowed people and others who have lost a loved one should learn from.
Just yesterday at Tutor and Spunky's, my Dana Point deli, a widower named Fred said almost the identical thing regarding his deceased wife--he still loves her and misses her--but he also loves and cares a great deal about a new woman in his life. He is comfortable being in a new relationship. He said doing things with someone you care about is so much better than doing the same things alone.
You and Valerie took it slowly. A very wise thing. You both intelligently communicated in great detail about your relationship. Even the separate rooms on weekends together showed restraint (I could not do that I admit).
Your similar interests, religion, and wants and needs make you two a perfect fit.
And the 90 miles of separation didn't deter you one bit. Long-distance relationships often don't work because both parties are not motivated enough or not committed enough to make it work.
Good luck with the wedding. I am sure you and Valerie will communicate thoroughly about that as well (her attention-to-detail will be put to use).
John replied: "I have saved every newsletter since I began receiving them and frequently go back and re-read some of them. I also forward them to my sister-in-law who lost her husband in 2010. She is reluctant to sign up herself. I believe your newsletter has touched many more people than you know of but who do not write you. My only suggestion to the Champs would be to have a lot of patience and pay close attention to the little things. The romantic stuff sounds nice but small details can tell you if the relationship can work. Keep up the wonderful work."
Valerie & John