She wrote, "This is Tina from northern California. I am 70, a retired operating room nurse, enjoying every minute of retirement.
"Fifty years ago (1964), I met a young 2nd Lieutenant in training in the Air Force at Mather AFB in the Sacramento area and we fell in love. We had six wonderful months together before he was sent back to Florida. We wrote often but as stories go, distance makes maintaining a relationship difficult especially at age 22.
"I saw him one time more, in 1965, on my way to the Caribbean on vacation, on a stopover in Miami. He had married another lady and was happy. I was heartbroken but understood. I tucked him away in my heart as a memory.
"Through the years, I occasionally thought of him and what had happened to him. I was most worried that he had perished during his tour of duty in Vietnam as a pilot. I tried to find him several times to no avail.
"About a month ago, I got a 'friends' request from Facebook; I didn't recognize the name. I wrote back: 'Who are you?' No response for two weeks. I got another request asking if I was the lovely lady (my maiden name) he had met 50 years ago, and his name.
"It was John (not his real name). I was shocked! How did he find me? Well I guess there is a way if you know what you are doing on a computer. Obviously not me!
"We chatted for several weeks and I invited him to visit this past week. He was here for two days and it was a wonderful reunion. He wasn't the dashing young lieutenant I loved so much but he still had the personality and certain features I saw on his face.
"Fifty years change us all, but there was that broad smile and his bright twinkling Irish eyes.
"We talked and got caught up on 50 years. Our lives went different ways, and we have totally different life styles now.
"He has been living in southern California on a ranch he bought in 1967. So close, yet so far!
"He has been separated for 10 years from the woman he married back then. He has two grown children and has built a life he is comfortable in.
"There was no 'love connection' in the sense we would pursue something. But, this time, I will never let him go as a close friend. I still love him, but not as that young man I met when I was so young. He was my first love and will always be in my heart that way.
"The point of this story: you never know when something wonderful will happen in your life. I may never have found out what happened to him had he not been thinking of me all these years and decided to investigate.
"In a way, it's a fairy tale that some people never get to experience.
"He will always be in my life from this time forward. But, I think it now will be a love of friendship, in that he has his life of stock market trading, attending swap meets and spending time at the VFW hall.
"He loves his ranch--13 acres in a desert area. Not my cup of tea. We have both carved out our paths to the end but I know we will see each other again. We may even go on a little vacation together. The romantic part is gone though.
"I have an active senior life. I am still using singles sites to find that last great love. Nothing yet.
"Tina requested I not use either of their real names, saying, "He has a lot of old cronies that might subscribe to your newsletter and they might figure out it was he. His separated wife also lives close to him."
Tom's comment: Interesting that two weeks in a row the term, "not my (or our) cup of tea" was used by women describing aspects of their lives.
I imagine there will be a lot of Champs who read today's story who will reflect back with warm feelings on the first love of their lives. But, as Tina suggested, the memories and friendship will likely remain, but the romance candle will likely be out.
Part 2 - Champs on the move
This is the third and final installment written from Sonoma County, in the heart of wine country. On Saturday, Greta, her daughter, Tammi, son-in-law Stephen, and I pack up a Uhaul truck, and then on Sunday, we say good-by to the community of Oakmont (five miles east of Santa Rosa) and drive the truck to Dana Point in Orange County and offload furniture and belongings at my home.
Last week, I received an email from Leslie, one of our Champs. In November, she moved from Newport Beach in southern California to this community of Oakmont. Greta and I got to visit Leslie last Friday at her new home here and enjoyed our 45 minutes together.
Coincidentally, Leslie and her family were the first tenants we had in our Oakmont home five years ago when we were renting the home out as a vacation rental. She also is one of the featured couples in the book, "How 50 Couples Found Love After 50," which I published five years ago. After 37 years as a teacher, she is loving retirement and enjoys the Oakmont environment. Small world.