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Letting it be: A Valentine suited to San Francisco

“Y’know, you really should stop calling him that,” Esther said.

That was all I needed. Already stressed about this new relationship, I didn’t need to be yelled at by my best friend.

“And, by the way,” you keep calling being with Peter a new relationship. It’s not all that new anymore.”

I did keep calling it new, even though we had been together for over six months by this time. I kept calling it new because I expected it to end at any moment. True, I loved Peter with a passion that was unexpected, because at age 50, I’d more or less shut the doors on the whole romance thing. My right brain was euphoric, remembering what it felt like to be in love as a younger woman, and my body was following suit. But, my left brain? It was on guard, reminding me of all the reasons this relationship was untenable. Unsustainable. On eternally shaky ground.

Peter was starting out in a business I’d been in for decades. He was new to New York, looking for a life there, while I was beginning to tire of the scene and was thinking of ways to live in the country more of the time.

And, Peter was 25 years younger.

So how could this possibly ever be something real, something long term? Anything other than an arresting curve in his road, and a final fling down mine, before I truly closed up shop?

Consequently, to make as light of it as I could, to keep it in the realm of whimsy and nothing-really-serious, I steadfastly referred to Peter as “my young lad.”

And this made Esther angry.

“It’s condescending, stupid and actually mean,” she went on to tell me in that same conversation. “Peter really does care for you, obviously, and so maybe you’d better start taking him seriously.”

So I did. Or at least I stopped referring to Peter that way.

But the real change came because of something Esther said to Peter, not to me. And it transformed both our lives forever.

My mother was coming to the end of her life, and I was spending lots of time in Chicago with her. After she passed, my Orthodox Jewish family arranged for everything, including the traditional several days of mourning, including sitting Shiva, the memorial service, and burial. I was determined to see it to its natural conclusion, and then fly home to New York and to Peter. I had it all arranged in nice neat little emotional boxes, so my family would never have to meet the man whom I knew they’d consider unsuitable for me.

And so, despite his protests, I convinced Peter to stay in New York and not come to Chicago for the funeral.

Or at least I thought I convinced him.

One day, Esther said to Peter, “Y’know, if you don’t fly out there to be with Evalyn during this time, you’ll regret it. Get on a plane!”

And that’s what he did.

Not only did he fly to Chicago, on the way he stopped in Detroit to pick up his parents, and all three came to my mother’s memorial service. I’d briefly met Peter’s parents, we all liked each other very much (after all, we were the same age and had a lot in common), but I had no idea how much their being at my mother’s funeral would mean to me. Somehow, Peter knew.

Following Esther’s advice, “my young lad” showed himself to be the man I could fall truly in love with and marry one day.

And his Polish Catholic folks were the hit of the Shiva.

Now, some 15 years down the road, Peter and I are now happily established here in San Francisco, living out our unique story, surrounded by a city filled with people, couples, families, communities, living the marvelous uniqueness of their stories as well. There are so many of them, these unique and loving stories.

No wonder we love it here so much.

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