I sat at my computer, reading through my Facebook posts for the last year. Some were funny, some were poignant, and others were about ordinary things, the goings on of a normal life.
My life had not been normal for eight months. My wife was killed in an auto accident, leaving me alone, since we’d had no children. The next three months were a blur of the funeral, expressions of sympathy from friends and family, and dealing with the insurance companies and the attorneys. After that, it took another three months to settle the insurance and legal issues. At the end, I was left with a healthy settlement, along with payouts from my wife’s life insurance and accidental death policies. I had invested the proceeds left after paying my remaining debts with an investment firm. The resulting monthly annuity was enough to allow me a comfortable lifestyle.
Since I was released from any obligation to work, I resigned from my job and added my own retirement fund to my investments. That decision led to my selling everything except a few personal possessions, and moving to a different city. I loved my former in-laws, but they reminded me too much of my late wife, and I desperately needed to distance myself from those memories so I could move on.
I purchased a used motor home and a small pickup to tow behind it, and I set off to see the country. I visited relatives that I hadn’t seen in years, and I also helped with a ministry I’d been associated with for several years. After two months on the road, though, I found myself back in my home state.
Now, I sat in my motor home at a small RV park just outside of town and puttered with my phone. It had rained the night before, and I looked out the window at the wet grass and asphalt street. The sky was leaden and gray, which matched my mood. The fact was, I admitted to myself, was that I was lonely. I had no desire to seek a one night stand, nor was I interested in paid entertainment, though I’d been offered both in my travels. I’d been married for the better part of thirty years, so that lifestyle wasn’t for me.
I scrolled through my Facebook page, and then I stopped on one post that caught my eye. The author was one of my Facebook friends, and I’d seen her posts many times before. She had a quirky but insightful grasp of things, and her writings well displayed her wit and considerable intellect. I’d worked with her a few times during my volunteer activities, and so I knew she was an attractive and personable woman. I clicked on her home page, and noted that she was single – and that she was almost twenty years my junior.
Her page had many pictures and narratives of her activities, but there was nothing about a man (or woman, for that matter) in her life. I had certainly noticed her before, but I was married. Now, I was not. I told myself to not be silly; she was a vivacious woman, and I was an old guy with a motorhome and health issues. Still, I thought, what would it hurt to reach out?
I took a breath, and sent her a private message, asking her how she was doing, and briefly explaining that I’d been traveling. I wasn’t a big Facebook user, but I had posted about my experiences over the last eight months, and she’d made positive comments about what I’d written.
Two days later, she wrote back, expressing concern about my well-being. I said that I was fine, and then I invited her to meet me at a local restaurant for a cup of coffee. To my surprise, she readily accepted the invitation, and we negotiated a date and time to meet.
The sun was low on the western horizon when I stepped out of my truck and walked into the restaurant. I was a few minutes early, so I found a table in a more private location, and settled down to wait. The waitress came by; I ordered a soft drink and told her that I was waiting for a friend.
Right on the minute, the door opened and she walked in. I stood up to draw her attention, and a broad smile brightened her face as she walked toward me. “Hello,” she said as she lightly embraced me.
“Hello.” I helped her with her chair as she sat down, and then I returned to my seat. “Thank you for coming, after all.”
She lifted an eyebrow. “You didn’t think I would show up?”
“Well, I wasn’t sure, to be honest.”
She looked up as the waitress approached. She ordered her drink, and we both ordered entrees. “This is on my bill,” I told the waitress.
“You didn’t have to buy my meal, but thank you. Why would you think I would stand you up?”
“I didn’t know if you were dating anyone,” I replied, “and, we haven’t really talked in a long time. Also, I’m a lot older than you.”
She smiled, which made my heart beat faster. She was pretty, she was outgoing, and her personality was devastating at this range. “I would have refused your invitation if any of those things were a problem.”
I nodded. “I thought that would be the case.”
We conversed for a few minutes while we waited on our meals. I asked her about her work, and she asked me about my life since my retirement. As we spoke, it became apparent that she’d followed my posts, since she asked about specific events and other things I’d mentioned on my page.
“I think I’m flattered,” I said at length.
“Why?” She ran her finger around the rim of her glass as she studied my eyes.
I took a breath and dragged my gaze from hers for a moment. “You can recall quite a bit about what I’ve written online. Honestly, I didn’t think anyone was really paying attention.”
“You,” she pointed her fork at me, “don’t give yourself nearly enough credit.” She smiled and took a forkful of her dinner.
“Do you remember having a conversation with me about relationships?” I nodded, and she continued. “That day, you really helped me see some things differently. You spoke of courtship, and the disadvantages of dating, and the pitfalls of casual relationships. I’ve had men approach me, much the same as you just did. I’ve gone out with a few of them, but I’ve turned most of them down.” She popped the food in her mouth and chewed.
“I’m flattered, again.”
“This isn’t about flattery,” she replied evenly. “Surely you don’t think you’re the only one who noticed another that wasn’t, um, available at the time?” I felt my face heat, and she grinned.
“I didn’t really think about you, uh, it.” I cleared my throat and took a breath. “I’m almost twenty years older than you, so,” I shrugged.
“But, you did notice me, right?” Her voice was gentle.
I nodded. “Yes, I did. Still do.”
“Good. It’s your fault that I’m here.”
“Huh? Um, I mean, I don’t understand what you mean.”
She smiled, took a drink of her soda, and sat back. “You made me reset my filters where men are concerned.”
She waved her hand to cut off my response. “Let me explain. Those two times we talked; you laid out what a marriage should look like in terms I could really understand. I’ve never been married, so I didn’t have a good basis from which decide on a husband. To be blunt, almost none of the men I’ve met have measured up.”
I parsed the word ‘almost’, and then set it aside. “I’d imagine you’ve had a lot of offers.”
She nodded. “All vanity aside, yes.”
“That’s a fact, not vanity,” I replied. “You said almost none of the men, though.”
“I did. You, the person who advised me, I think you just might measure up. I’m not sure yet. I know you, yet I don’t.”
I took a moment to settle my thoughts. This was going in a much better direction than I’d ever dreamed it would. “As I told you then, I don’t do casual relationships, and I don’t date.”
“I remember that.”
“I’ve not been here in thirty years,” I said in a low voice. “I’m a little rusty at courting.”
She smiled. “See, that’s what I mean. You are the first man to say that he wanted to court me.” She reached over and laid her hand on mine. “I’d say that the first step is to speak with my parents, but I’m a little old to ask for their permission.”
“Do you seriously want me to court you?”
“Yes, I do.” Her smile was blinding.
“That is what I will do, then.” I rolled my hand palm up, and gently grasped her hand. “I’m still processing all of this, though.”
We finished our meal, I paid for it, and we walked outside. I escorted her to her car, and she turned to me. “Give me your phone, please.” I unlocked it and handed it over, and she tapped at the screen for a moment. “There, now you have my personal cell number. Call me.” She pressed my phone into my hand, leaned in to plant a kiss on my cheek, and opened her car door. “I’m available this weekend.” I stepped back, and she waved to me as she drove out of the parking lot.
I barely remembered driving back to my motor home. The whole situation was nearly unbelievable, but here it was. This young and attractive woman was actually interested in me, and not just casually. We had each noticed the other, and I’d had no idea that she felt that way about me.
So, to work. She had left the initiative with me, and I needed to plan out the next step. After some research, I decided that I would ask her on a public outing, something fun that would take the pressure off us to be the other’s entertainment for the day. The nearby city was a popular tourist destination, so guided tours were plentiful. I selected a bus tour that took two hours to complete and made online reservations for two on the coming Saturday.
I texted the tour idea to her, while not telling her that I’d made reservations – just in case. Her reply came back a few minutes later: “Yes :)” Over the intervening days, I had my truck washed and cleaned, bought new clothes and shoes to wear, and arranged to have a small bouquet of flowers ready for her.
On Saturday morning, I drove to her home to pick her up. She lived with a roommate in a small house on the city’s outskirts. When I presented the flowers, she took them inside to place them in water, and then reappeared with one of the blossoms pinned in her hair.
We chatted as I drove her to the place where the tour started. We parked in a public garage, and walked to the tour bus terminal. She noticed people and things; an elderly couple still holding hands, two children sharing candy, or a young man who held a door for us. We boarded the bus, and she took my hand as we sat pressed together on the cramped seats.
She knew something of the local history, so she would point out interesting places to me as we rode along. I asked her questions as we went, and she could answer many of them. After the tour, we decided to have lunch. I’d researched some local eateries, and she selected a barbeque place with a good reputation. We talked and laughed as we tried to eat barbequed ribs without getting messy. It was a losing battle, so we had to just give up and eat with our fingers. Our conversation was light – what’s your favorite color, what music do you like, and so on. We had compatible tastes in music, and we both liked a wide range of music styles.
After lunch, I drove her home. I told her about some of the places I’d seen, and she told me about some of the places she’d traveled to with her job. She’d been overseas several times, while I had not. All too soon, we were at our destination. I stopped the truck, and went around to open her door. She stepped up to me, put her hands on my shoulders, and drew me in for a brief kiss.
“Thank you, I enjoyed our time together.”
“It was my pleasure,” I said with a smile. “Are you available for dinner in the next few days?”
“Sure. I’m available on Monday.”
“Monday it is, then. I’ll pick you up at six?”
“Yes, that will be fine.” She smiled, kissed me again, and turned to walk up the sidewalk. “I’m looking forward to it,” she called over her shoulder.
She laughed and waved, and I drove home with the feel of her kisses on my lips. It invoked feelings that I hadn’t entertained in many years, feelings that brought tears to my eyes. I fought to maintain my composure, but I had to pull over to the side of the road, as I couldn’t see to drive. Sitting in the truck as the traffic whipped by, I thought of my late wife and the life we’d had that was so suddenly ripped away.