Sydell Weiner, PhD

Michael B

It was August of 2020, the sixth month of the pandemic. I was kept away from my grandchildren and social distanced from my kids. Every activity that gave my life meaning had been taken away.

I was lonely. It was 4 years since my husband died, and I no longer had the distractions to keep me from wallowing in my grief. So, one morning, feeling particularly brave, I went on

After several clicks and a few conversations, I got a message from a man named Michael. We set up a date at an outdoor restaurant. It was only a mile away, but to me it felt like a journey to the other side of heartbreak.

I parked my car, flipped down the visor mirror, and made peace with the older version of myself. Deep breath and then I grabbed my phone.

“I just parked,” I texted.
“I’m here,” he wrote back.
Oh good, I wasn’t the 1st to arrive.
“I’m wearing black, with a black and white scarf,” I wrote.
“I’m naked,” he shot back.
“It Figures,” I retorted, enjoying the banter.

So, with studied confidence, I walked towards the restaurant. And then I saw him. A handsome man with a full head of thick silver hair. He waved, so I joined him at the outdoor table and removed my mask. “Hi, I’m Sydell.” He smiled. “I’m Michael. You look just like your picture, very pretty.” I started to relax.

We talked about our careers. He was interested when I told him I was a Theatre Professor. “Who’s your favorite playwright?” he asked. “Ibsen,” I replied without hesitation. “I read an Ibsen play in college. A woman named Mrs. Alving, with syphilis. Sound familiar?” “Of course,” I answered. But for the life of me I could not remember the name of the play.

He was in the restaurant business and let me in on the best place for eggplant parmigian. “I love eggplant,” I gushed. “Oh good. I’ll have to take you there.” A bottle of wine later, he returned me to my car. I drove to the ticket booth and got out my wallet to pay. The attendant grinned. “The gentleman behind you already paid.” WOW…Nice touch, Michael!

The next day I searched like mad for the name of that Ibsen play. Ghosts, of course! Oh well, I thought, good excuse for a text.

“I remembered the name of that Ibsen play,” I texted, “it’s been bugging me.” He answered immediately.

“I’m getting under your skin. That’s a good sign for a new relationship! Still want to go for that eggplant parmigiana?”

On our 2nd date he brought eggplant parmigiana to my backyard. He was charming and funny. His eyes lit up when he spoke and when he smiled his face seemed to glow. I fell immediately under his spell.

As the days and weeks passed, we became inseparable. We threw Yiddish expression at each other, sang songs from old Broadway shows, lit candles every night, and danced down the aisle of the neighborhood Ralphs. We had the vacation of a lifetime in Zihuantanejo, with dinner under the stars 3 feet from the edge of the ocean. And we held hands. We held hands at night, and we held hands the day that we got the diagnosis—esophageal cancer.

Caring for Michael became my mission in life—and I embraced it. When he was hurting, I held him close and gave him love. And he returned that love– in spades when he was healthy, but even when he was too sick to speak.

We all want things to last forever, but at my age, you realize that nothing really does. And that’s O.K.
I had almost 2 years with this delicious, exuberant, man. How could I ever be sorry for that?

Rest well, Michael, and thank you for coming into my life.

Sydell Weiner, July 2022