Can’t Hurry Love
Tying the knot at 50: The romance, the run-up to the wedding and the post-wedding reality. For my 16th birthday, my father gave me a yellow toolbox filled with screwdrivers and wrenches. For my 18th birthday, he gave me an electric drill. For my 21st birthday, he gave me a book, "You Don’t Need a Man to Fix It!" Is it any wonder I didn't the end of the wedding ceremony it is customary for the groom to break a glass. Some say it represents a dose of reality being introduced into the marriage bond. Like many never-been-married 50-year-old women, I was self-sufficient. I had achieved many of my goals, without the emotional and financial support of a husband. A select group of friends and relatives were AHA my support network. I participated in organizations, pursued my hobbies and frequented synagogue. I had dated and had serious relationships, but I hadn’t found the perfect guy. By my mid-40s, I began to feel like an outsider in the very community I had always felt most comfortable in. The dilemmas of the biblical Tamar and Sarah resonated with me; being single and childless means being sidelined in the Jewish community. Becoming a single mom was daunting. A wise friend urged me to stop looking for an ideal and start looking for a man whom I was comfortable with, a partner to go through life. He said to pray for my husband’s welfare — he was alive and needed my prayers. Sage advice. I met my husband through work 20 years ago. I admired his manner and his skills. From time to time over the years, we would talk about business. In May 2003, I called him with the same agenda. I learned that he and his wife had recently separated. Only his youngest son, a high school junior, lived at home with his almost ex. His daughter was about to start college and his eldest son was in graduate school in Cambridge. He lived two blocks from me. As neighbors, we palled around. We liked the same types of leisure activities and had a similar sense of humor. It was easy to be together. One day, it dawned on me that something might be going on between us. I assumed it was a summer fling. Summer lasted into fall, then winter and the next summer, and the next summer. I spent time with his kids, his parents and his sister’s family. I liked them all and felt like I fit right in. He met my mother, who adored him and agreed that my father, z"l", would have too. The only area where we differed was Judaism. I have been passionate about Judaism since I was a teenager and practice more like a Conservative Jew. He is proud of being Jewish, but does not like prayer or institutional religion. He hates rules. About six months after his divorce, he asked me to move in with him. Many younger women would rather live with their boyfriends before making a lifelong commitment. At 50, living together didn’t interest me. I asked, what’s the difference between living together and marriage? He looked around the apartment and said, "Closets. Not enough closets." He’s a practical guy. A few weeks later, his doorman dangled a key in front of my nose. The studio next door to my boyfriend’s one-bedroom condo was for sale — we could break through. In Manhattan, this could be viewed as proof of God’s existence. When I brought the key upstairs, he almost fainted. Then he waffled on marriage. I accepted that we might want different things at this point in our lives. I cared about myself enough to honor my needs, rather than surrender to the fear of losing him. With big tears, we said goodbye ... for a day. Needless to say, my mother and my brother were ecstatic when I told them we were engaged. The phone lines shook with exuberant ill-mannered comments that a 30-year-old wouldn’t hear, like "What took you so long!" We started talking about the wedding. He said, "Let’s go to Vegas!" I cautiously agreed, even with an Elvis impersonator officiating, as long as it was a Jewish ceremony with a chupah. That was the end of Vegas. He reluctantly agreed to a Jewish ceremony in New York. But NO Jewish dancing. Younger brides and pop culture seem to be enthralled with all the details leading up to the wedding ceremony and the event after it. Mothers usually get involved. At an older age, we’re fortunate when our parents can even attend. It was up to me to plan the wedding, though ultimately, H, my fiancé, joined in. Several friends helped, too. The ceremony and the lunch would be at The Boathouse in Central Park with a DJ and lots of dancing. H agreed to nine minutes of Jewish dancing. But NO chair. I cared most about the ceremony. With Rabbi Rolando Matalon and Cantor Ari Priven from Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, we planned a ceremony that was meaningful to both of us. A choir we support (the Peace of Heart Choir) and Cantor Sharon Kohn, who is a family friend, both wanted to sing. We love Cantor Priven’s voice and musical style. All of these were integrated into a traditional ceremony. The dual symbolism of the chupah as a sign of God’s presence at the wedding and of our future home touched me. So, I decided to make our chupah, topping it with four restored finials from BJ’s collapsed ceiling and a silk organza sheath to hold my grandfather’s tallit aloft. Including H’s children in the ceremony was important also, to signal our intentions towards them. They walked in the processional and stood by their father during the ceremony. His oldest son was his best man. The wedding occurred on a glorious fall day. As we stood under the chupah with our families near, sunlight shined through the bay window, people rowed on the boat pond, orange autumn leaves stood out against the blue sky with the city’s skyline in the background, and beautiful music filled the room. It was as if we were standing in an urban version of Eden. The rabbi spoke about the auspicious portion of the week, "B’reishit." He likened us to the original couple, explaining that Adam needed a mate who would see the goodness inside him and challenge him to be the best person he could be. There was not a dry eye in the room. The ceremony transcended any vision I ever had of how magnificent a wedding could be. It was worth waiting until 50+ for the right man to be my partner. H arranged for Andy Statman, the renowned klezmer musician, to play at the reception. The Jewish dancing lasted well past nine minutes. H and I were hoisted up on chairs, squealing with fear and delight, a napkin connecting our hands and hearts. Right after the wedding, I faced that reality. My life of independence suddenly was constrained by another person, not always agreeably. Developing a relationship with a husband and stepchildren takes much more time, energy and diplomacy than dating. I hardly spoke to my girlfriends, let alone saw them. I felt isolated, as if I’d dropped off the face of the earth. We agreed that by collaborating, instead of competing, our results would be better. H convinced me that I didn’t need to try so hard to be a good wife and stepmother. He encouraged me to see my friends. Our religious differences dissipated, too. I didn’t press him and he respected my choices. He appreciated Rabbi Matalon’s sensitivity and, occasionally, even came to Shabbat services to learn about the Torah portion. Fortunately, much of Jewish practice is home-based. He likes socializing and my cooking. What’s so bad about relaxing at dinner on Shabbat or hosting tasty holiday meals with our friends and family? That Chanukah, my mother, in-laws, and step-kids came to our "conjoined" apartments for dinner. There was non-stop conversation and laughter. We lit the candles, exchanged gifts and told the story of the miracles of Chanukah. For the first time in my adult life, I saw loving faces of my own husband and newly extended family around my table. As Sarah learned, it’s never too late.