By Tom Blake
Just before Christmas—50 days after my partner, Greta, passed away—I knew I needed to start getting out of the house and exercising. It was a beautiful, sunny day, so I decided to take a walk in my Monarch Beach neighborhood.
I came upon a woman who was walking her dog. I had seen her walk past my house several times, and we had chatted briefly, but never formally introduced ourselves. The last time I had seen her, I mentioned that Greta was ill.
She was always friendly. I was aware that she was married to Jim, whose home-improvement company had installed two windows in Greta’s San Clemente home several years before.
She said, “Hi, I’m Lilly. How is your wife?”
I mustered the courage to tell her that Greta had passed away on Oct. 29. Lilly was shocked, and gracious, and expressed her condolences. We talked for six minutes. She touched my hand and told me how sorry she was, which lifted my spirits.
I didn’t mention to Lilly that while Greta and I had been together for 25 years, we weren’t married. It wasn’t important information.
The next day, I decided to venture out again. I was in the bread aisle of the Capistrano Beach Costco. I noticed a woman walking in the same aisle. She looked like Lilly.
I said, “You look like my neighbor.”
She said, “You look like my neighbor. Where do you live?”
“In Monarch Beach,” I replied.
“Me, also,” she said. And then she smiled and quickly added, “Oh, my gosh, I’m Lilly, you’re Tom; we talked yesterday. You probably didn’t recognize me without my dog.” We had a big laugh over her comment.
Then, Lilly said, “Do you like chili?”
“Yes,” I answered, “I love chili.”
She said, “I made chili last night. We have leftovers. We’ll drop some off later.”
In the checkout lines, we waved and held up identical sourdough bread packages that each of us had selected in the bread aisle. Friendly neighbors think alike, I thought.
A short while after unloading the groceries from my car, I heard a knock on the front door. I opened it. Standing there, with a bowl of chili in his hands, was Jim, Lilly’s husband. I invited him in.
I said, “How long have you and Lilly been together?”
“How did you two meet?”
“Online,” Jim replied. She’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Having noticed that Lilly has a warm and friendly accent, I said, “Where is she from?”
“Costa Rica,” Jim said.
I showed Jim a copy of the How 50 Couples Found Love After 50 book that I published in 2009 and said, “Darn, had I known you two then, I would have included your story in the book.”
Jim smiled and said, “We wouldn’t have qualified. I was 43 when I met her. She was younger.”
I added, “You are right. You two were too young for the book. But it still goes to show that internet dating can bring people together, regardless of age, and even when they grew up thousands of miles apart.”
I signed a book with these words: “To Jim, Lilly and the Puppy Dog.” And handed it to Jim.
Moral of today’s story: When you’re out and about, be friendly, and talk to people. Jim and Lilly live 60 yards away from me. And now, I have two new friends.
Plus, Lilly’s chili was unbelievably delicious. And best of all, Jim said, “Lilly makes chili often. We’ll bring you more.”
I said, “Promise?”
“Each time,” he said.
Tom Blake is a retired Dana Point business owner and resident who has authored books on middle-aged dating. See his website at findingloveafter50.com. To comment: firstname.lastname@example.org.