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L.A. Affairs: Who knew Home Depot was the most romantic place on Earth?

Two hands form a heart that frame a couple walking in a home improvement store.
It took me about two years after the death of my husband to feel like I wanted male companionship again.
(Patric Sandri / For The Times)
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Shortly after I turned 70, my husband of nearly 50 years died as a result of a major stroke he’d suffered 13 months earlier. Our marriage had been rocky; twice I’d asked for a divorce, but each time we sought counseling and stayed together. I’m glad we did, since I was able to become his part-time caregiver during his illness.

In the weeks and months after his passing, I focused on time with friends, taking classes (in opera and art history appreciation, and film as literature), spending time with my daughter and her family, and enjoying my two grandchildren. Initially, that was enough. It took me about two years to feel like I wanted male companionship again. I knew I didn’t want to remarry or even live with someone else. I was happy with my freedom and independence and the many activities I’d started engaging in.

I just wanted a “friend with benefits.”

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I joined Jdate and then Match.com. I made it through several one-date experiences that could warrant their own sitcom (or a “how-to-not” handbook).

One man clearly just wanted someone to invest in his new business. I got up and walked out of the lunch we’d been having at Las Brisas in Laguna Beach.

Another date talked endlessly about his “kinky” sex life. He was sitting on my sofa when he asked me if I liked being tied up and blindfolded. (It wasn’t that these things upset me as much as the fact that we’d only started dating and had never even been intimate. It was way too early for that kind of talk.) I asked him to leave.

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I almost went on a date with the fix-it man who came to replace my kitchen faucet. He strung me along for a while before finally admitting he was married. I showed him the door and then hired someone else to do the rest of the jobs in my condo.

I felt super excited and nervous for my date with an ex-boyfriend, which surprised me — since he was dead.

I had high hopes for another man. We went on our first date on New Year’s Day 2020. We continued dating for a few months, but seeing each other during COVID-19 times when we couldn’t enjoy activities like movies, restaurants and other diversions made me realize that his “idiosyncrasies” were actually big failings in his personality. (He was boring. He didn’t vote, cared little about politics. And I had to do all the planning; he never suggested anything.)

Eventually, a few months into the shutdown, I broke up with him. I had no regrets. I didn’t want a relationship that offered so little. I was happier being on my own again. I took my profile off those two dating sites and sat out the rest of the year without a need to meet someone else.

As the pandemic precautions were slowly lifted earlier this year, however, I took a chance and joined a dating site for the 50-plus set called SilverSingles. I put up a few new photos of myself and wrote what I thought was a good profile.

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Two residents who live in the same senior community as I do responded. I went out once with each of them. There were no sparks with the first one. I made plans for another date with the second gentleman but learned he had a problem with being “in touch” between dates. He didn’t call, text or email me once after our first date, so it was going to be a full eight days before our planned second date. When I sent him a text asking why I hadn’t heard from him, he replied that he believed only in face-to-face conversations. I told him that our second date was going to be like a first date all over again since we hadn’t progressed in getting to know each other.

I decided to break that second date.

By this time, I had had enough. I was done with online dating. But on the very day I went to delete my account for the last time, I found a new profile waiting for me. His name was Mark. He seemed to have a twinkle in his eyes; his smile was boyish — broad and natural.

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In his profile, he mentioned things that matched what I was looking for in a relationship. Many of his interests mirrored my own; we both enjoyed plants and gardening and getting out in nature. He followed politics too. I sent him a message. Not 20 minutes later, I received a delightful response. Over the next few days and weeks, we would learn that we had much in common. We’d even lived near each other in L.A. at one point. We were also able to speak openly about losing our partners after a long marriage (he was divorced). When I told him I hadn’t ridden a bike in years, he offered to teach me how to enjoy cycling again. His sense of humor came pouring out in his words. I was charmed by him, as he was by me.

Before long, we planned our first date: I invited him for a walk around Aliso Creek in South Orange County. When we finally met, we immediately, and without any shyness or hesitation, threw our arms around each other and hugged.

Although we’d planned only a walk that morning, we ended up going to lunch together and talking for hours. Everything just clicked. By the end of that first date, we knew something special had started. We were on a fast track to falling in love.

Not a day goes by that I do not miss him or think about whether we might still someday have our chance.

This all happened a little over eight months ago. We agreed that, at our age, if the connection is a good one, we should embrace it and every moment that comes our way.

He’s remodeling a new home, and much to my delight I’ve been consistently invited to help him select lighting fixtures, sinks, faucets and more. Never before has Home Depot been such a romantic place. No candles necessary. A kiss while looking up at a possible ceiling fan to purchase, holding hands while walking down the toilet aisle ...

At 75, I’m having the time of my life giving and receiving love again.

The author writes a monthly column in the Globe, the local newspaper for the Laguna Woods Village retirement community, and has written many poems and short stories.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $300 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.


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