Better Late: Love and Marriage after 65

I pour myself into a cream-colored silk Nicole Miller sheath with a three-foot train that fits like a glove after six weeks of alterations. My youngest granddaughter Francesca looks up at me, her eyes gleaming. “You look beautiful Mimi!”

Inside the church, she and her sister toss silk rose petals as I link arms with my daughter and son-in-law and process down the aisle.

After 35 years as a twice-divorced single mother of two daughters with a CV full of professional accomplishments, I am not exactly the profile of your average bride.

At 72, I treasure my independence and fiercely protect my writing time and my solitude. Yet my husband and I had the courage to commit to each other for better or for worse. Alex and I defy the stereotypes and the odds. Each informed by two early failed marriages, and years of living as single people, our marriage has not been an easy or quick evolution for either of us.

‘As a younger woman I didn’t know myself well enough to make wise choices.’

No technology glitch or computer crash phases Alex. He calmly sets out to trouble shoot with the confidence that he can fix pretty much everything. I would no more know how to troubleshoot my iPhone than change the oil in my car. And I’m just about as interested. Which is to say, not at all. We could not be more opposite personalities.

The Backstory

We met one November night in 2012 when I was 64 and he was 60. I had just returned to Zydeco dancing after a long absence while I rehabilitated a frozen shoulder. When Alex approached, I had a dim memory of seeing him at other dances before my injury, because he wore a fedora and was tall and thus, noticeable.

The band was thumping, the accordion singing its nasal but irresistible melody, the bass and drums booming out the rhythm, and the rubboard accenting the down beat. Dancers swarmed to the floor in droves.

“May I have this dance?” Alex asked. I nodded. He took my hand and led me to the center of the wooden dance floor.

When he took me in his arms and held me at just the right distance, I instantly felt reassured. He waited a few beats and then with his hand squarely on my back led me into a solid two-step. Dancers have a word for this, “frame.” We were in sync! It felt wonderful.

“That was fun,” I said at the end of the song.

“Care for another?”

“Delighted,” I said.

At the end of the next dance, a Cajun-style waltz, Alex kissed my hand and returned me to the table where I had been sitting.

“May I call you some time?” he asked. I nodded. He handed me a business card.

“Helping computers play nicely with people for 25 years,” I read at the bottom.

A few days later, I received a LinkedIn message. Alex didn’t text, or phone or ask to friend me on Facebook. Instead he gave me a window into his work history, his network, his interests: Rotary International (he was a long-time member), The Commonwealth Club, City Arts and Lectures. In his message he asked if I’d read the latest book by Malcom Gladwell and if I subscribed to The New Yorker.

After that, we became regular dance partners. Shortly before Christmas, he asked me out to dinner and a movie. We dated until September 2013, when Alex abruptly decided we should part. I didn’t understand why, but I accepted his assertion that he was unhappy, and we separated, eventually dating others.

But we continued to dance together, and Alex kindly assisted me with thorny computer problems. Over the years we exchanged suggestions for books and kept up with each other’s news—the final illnesses of his parents, my retirement from corporate work.

The Rekindling

After four years apart, I had an iPhone crash and Alex came to my rescue. We began talking about the reasons for our breakup and concluded that it had been a dreadful mistake! In January of 2018 we again became a couple.

“I guess we just weren’t ready in our early 60s,” I told him.

As a younger woman I didn’t know myself well enough to make wise choices. If we had met in our 30s or 40s, Alex probably wouldn’t even have appeared on my radar. But I’ve lived long enough to appreciate the calm companionship I find with my husband.

Should I be sad that it took us so long for us to find each other? Or that we almost lost each other during our interregnum? Or that we’ll never celebrate a golden anniversary?

Not on your life.

These days I focus on the miraculous synchronicity that—against all odds—brought us together again, and the shared interests and mutual respect that keep our partnership alive.

Eleanor Vincent is a writer who lives in Northern California. She has published a memoir, poetry and essays and writes a monthly column on resilient aging for the Rossmoor News. Visit her here.