I met my husband, Gib, at my granddaughter’s lemonade stand. He was whizzing by on his bike, did a U turn, took off his helmet and said, I read somewhere that you should never pass a lemonade stand.
Isabella poured him a tall glass of refreshment while I sat on the front steps of the house, soaking sun into my face, and wondering who this tall man with the quick smile and grey hair might be.
At 60, I had resolved to live alone. Relationships had not been kind. Besides, it’s difficult to think about dating when you’re a grandmother. The dating pool looks a little too much like the near-death club.
The next time I saw him was at our moving sale. I’d been living on the corner of 31st and Taylor in SE and was ready for a change, so I’d answered an ad to be a caretaker on a country estate. The hours were nothing, the land was perfect, and the situation gave me lots of time to replenish and write. I knew I was headed in a new direction, but had no idea the extent of it. Gib walked into the sale eager to visit. Even bought a white elephant chest of drawers my mother had given me. I discovered he lived only two houses away.
People who live in SE Portland are country people who settled in town. There are chicken coops tucked in side yards, plenty of rabbits, cats and dogs, and even a pot bellied pig. Southeast people wear big flannel shirts to keep warm, boots good for hiking, and drive old pick-up trucks for hauling what we can’t carry on bikes. We put the things we no longer want on street corners for others to take without cost, and have been lovingly referred to in the press as, “The People’s Republic of Portland.” So, you can imagine how strange it was to look out my window at 5.30 one morning, and see a gentleman standing under the street light in a three piece suit, polished black shoes, and white cuffed shirt. I threw a shawl over my nightdress and went to investigate. Turns out he was a visiting surgeon who had purchased the house across the street for his son. He was a man of routine, got up and did what he always did, but had no work to go to. He stood alone, like a dream image under the streetlight, waiting for his son to wake up. We were deep in conversation when Gib rounded the corner on his bike. He stopped, wanting to know where the handles were for the chest I’d sold him. I found them garish and tossed them out, I said.
You threw the handles to the chest away? Why would you do that?
They weren’t visually pleasing. Replace them with something better or use a screwdriver.
I thought you’d be moved by now.
Nope, my movers keep calling to back out.
I’ll do it, he said. I’ll help you. And he did. He showed up, hauled, stacked and dripped July sweat like the rest of us. He refused pay so I offered to fix dinner.
The first night was a bust. Gib is a retired engineer and can be too much in his head. We’ve managed to spend an entire evening together without a thing in common, I said. He smiled and left, forgetting his computer. When he came back the following day to retrieve it, we went deeper. Turns out we shared the same birthday, we had daughters who lived near-by, while our sons both lived in Los Angeles. And there was more; I’d lived for years three houses away from his childhood home, we’d both owned the same British car as teenagers, we’d both had the same mismatched marriage partners and resulting heartaches, we were both still young in spirit and athletic in body. But most of all, we were both still hoping to find the happiness we lost in our early years.
I was embarrassed to be getting married at 60, but my friends encouraged me. No, they said. It’s inspiring. It shows that love can happen for anyone at any age.