Family & Relationships

Who Are You, and How Did You Get in my Life?

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“Who are you, and how did you get in my life?

Most of us, at some point, have looked at the person who’ll become our life partner and wondered: Out of billions of people on the planet, how did I find you?

Nearly 40 years ago, my girlfriend, Patty, posed this question to me – and I reciprocated.   

Me:  “It was when I spotted you at a copier machine.” We were working at campaign headquarters of a gubernatorial campaign. I was the campaign press secretary; she was a volunteer, in the spring of her senior year as a political science major at a nearby college.  She was smart, personable– fresh-faced, sweet and innocent. She was also a poor typist – and I was only too happy to help. I fell hard.

Patty:  “It was when you gave me the shamrocks on St. Patrick’s Day. You were this big likeable guy from somewhere in the Midwest, a Vietnam War veteran who was kind to everybody, even John the Soda Man. I watched you type – you had the speed and style of a Rachmaninoff! You even stayed up late to type my senior thesis so I could sleep.”

Patty’s affection was slower to grow. Luckily, the typing pushed her over the edge.

*** 

Well, here we are four decades later, tucked in for the night after a visit from our daughter, Meaghan, her partner, Kayla, and Kayla’s parents, who’d driven to Long Island all the way from Pennsylvania for our very first meeting. We’d all been nervous, but our time together had been lovely.     

I was drowsy when Patty nudged me.     

“Who are you,” she said, “and how did you get in my life?” 

The surprise of it awakened me, and so we talked a little, late at night. 

The thrill of seeing our grown daughter in a loving relationship reminded us of when we were young and in love. We talked about all we’d gone through together. Marriage; births and deaths; demanding careers and retirement; alcoholism, addiction and recovery; the traumas of accident and illness; the joys of graduations, special moments and family milestones; the experience of 9/11 close-up, and even a wrenching separation which taught us, in the end, that we were meant for each other. 

These were questions asked, again, in wonderment. But this time with a difference, not about how we’d come together, but how we’d survived. In 1977 – chance and passion; in 2017 – wisdom and commitment. 

The miracle then was that we’d met. The miracle now was that we had lasted.

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