IT STARTED WITH A SUITCASE
Rekindling Love During a Pandemic
For the first time since the pandemic gripped the world in 2020, I took the commuter train into Manhattan on Wednesday to have lunch with my longtime business partner and friend. I was excited as I boarded the train in White Plains, New York, for that nice 40-minute ride into Grand Central terminal. I carried my leather backpack with me, in which I had The New York Times and a book. I was looking forward to reading while the train gently rocked its way along the rails.
As compared with the pre-pandemic days, the 12:02 p.m. express train was fairly crowded. I chalked that up to the fact that the railroad is still running limited service because of the continuing reduced ridership. As I entered the car I turned to the right and sat down in the first open seat. It was in one of those configurations of two rows of two seaters facing one another. I sat in the seat on the aisle facing rearward. A woman was already seated diagonally across to my right facing forward and seated next to the window. Like all other passengers on the train the woman was wearing a protective mask. Despite the lower half of her face being covered, she looked pleasant, with smile lines evident around her eyes. She appeared to be in my general age range (early to mid 60’s), had blonde hair, wore blue jeans and a ski jacket, and she had a carry-on piece of wheeled luggage next to her knees.
As we pulled out of the station, the train headed south and bent slightly to the right following the arc of the tracks. This caused the woman’s carry-on to roll gently into my right knee. She apologized profusely and turned somewhat red with embarrassment. To ease her concern, and inject some humor into the situation, I told her that the impact of her bag was “no big deal”, and said that “I used to play ice-hockey so I am used to getting hit”. She laughed.
Noting her luggage, I asked the woman if she was traveling for the coming Thanksgiving holiday. She said that she was not, and that she had been staying at her son’s home for a few days helping with her grandchildren.
Our conversation turned to life, kids, work, COVID, middle-aged pains, how so many people seem to be angry and like they’ve been let out of a cage as the pandemic has waned, and other related topics. She then asked if she could share something with me. I told her, “of course”. She said that her mother passed away eight months ago from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. I extended my deepest condolences. She then said that her mother had been ailing for 11 years. She had lived in a small three-room apartment in Brooklyn. So, my new friend rented an apartment next door to her mother’s. For 11 years she took care of her mother Monday to Friday, and then went home on weekends to be with her husband and family.
My friend then said that the last eight months have been interesting. She and her husband were kind of nervous when she moved back home full time after her mother’s passing. Her husband retired during the pandemic, and the two of them wondered if they would be able to survive being together full-time. She said that it has been slow, and that they have been taking halting steps as they get to know one another again. I then asked her if she still loves him and likes him. She thought for a moment and then said that she still does, and that he is a wonderful understanding person. She then said that she wants to spend the rest of her life with him. I told her she was lucky. When she asked me “how so”, I said, “just think of it, the two of you met long ago, fell in love, got married and raised kids, but then life happened. Now, you have the chance to get to know one another all over again, to fall in love all over again, and have fun on new adventures”. I then said, “you get to do it all over again, kind of cool”. My friend thought about what I’d said. A smile came to her face, and tears came to her eyes as we pulled into Grand Central Station. As we exited the car, she was going to turn to the right along the platform to walk towards the main terminal. I was going to turn to the left to head towards the northern exit. Instead, we stopped and hugged. I told her to have fun being a teenager again. She laughed, thanked me, and headed off to new adventures. I turned with a smile on my face and headed north knowing I would never see that friend again, but knowing I was enriched by our 40 minutes of friendship.
Everyone has a story. Don’t be afraid to share yours. The returns will warm your heart and bring the world closer together. One World/One Love. Peace.