We went to have ourselves a drink or two
But couldn’t find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at the liquor store
And we drank it in her car.
— Dan Fogelberg “Same Auld
When I first started out in this business, I was the kid and all my older colleagues took a proprietary interest in how I would turn out. It was like having several sets of parents and, if I didn’t appreciate them then, I certainly do today.
The newsroom where we produced the daily was always slightly hazy from cigar smoke. Old guys wore green eye shades and sleeve holders and wielded scissors big enough to lob off a human head with one big snip. Bottom desk drawers often held “dead soldiers” — empty beer bottles — and there were always short-cuts to a nearby watering hole where some drank their lunch.
Do you remember those days? What’s your memories of the newspaper editor in your hometown?
Perhaps he or she was a craggy, unsentimental and cynical loner who might have kept a flask in a vest pocket and didn’t pay much attention to fashion and personal appearance.
I can assure you there was a time when that was a fair description of the ink-stained and grizzled wretches. But it was always stereotype. Editors feel, bleed, love and shed tears, regret and rejoice, celebrate and mourn — just as you and I do.
I’ve written many thousands of stories over a long career but I worry that the most important to me — the story of us — will elude me. I worry that I will run out of time before I can tell you the unlikely tale of an “upper middle aged” couple who fall in love in Schenectady’s Historic Stockade neighborhood and live happily ever after. “Ever after,” of course, can mean anything — a week, a month, years.
I don’t know my expiration date. But I know I need to write our story as soon as possible. Time is not on my side.
My first enduring memory of Beverly was of her dazzling smile as we introduced ourselves on her front stoop. It still melts my heart. Who is this beautiful creature? I asked myself. She lives next door to me? How could that be?
I was moving into an apartment with my college-aged son. It was a sunny day in mid-December.
She appeared on her front porch, annoyed because he had parked his pickup truck in her alleyway. I was behind her on our own front porch carrying in a box of knives. She later told me she sized me up as either a serial killer or someone who cooks.
“Are you going to be blocking my driveway for long?” she asked my son. I intervened from behind her. “We’ll only be a few minutes,” I said in what I hoped was my most charming voice. I thrust my hand out and introduced myself. She was quizzical at first — she later said she recognized my name but didn’t know why — but then gave me that dazzling smile. “Take your time,” she told us. She disappeared into the house and we continued our unloading.
It was a few days later when I encountered her again. She probably didn’t know this, but she was frequently on my mind. I was standing on the porch when a couple of women emerged from Beverly’s house and got into a car. It became apparent they were just a touch tiddly as they exchanged goodbyes and then took off.
She turned and once again discovered me standing on my porch. “Oh,” she said, “we’ve been celebrating our Cabo vacation. I have some margaritas left. Can I offer you a drink?”
I assured her she could, but I had to check on the chicken I was roasting first. (During this time I was thoroughly conflicted. My longtime marriage was done, and I was certain I wanted no more romantic relationships. She seemed happy to hear there was a roasted chicken in the offing.)
My son was watching a movie when I turned off the oven and told him I’d be back later, that I was having a drink with “the lady next door.” He told me to be careful, and I never asked what he meant by that.
We had one margarita. Then she left for a week or so with her friends for a vacation in Cabo San Lucas in the Mexican Baja peninsula. I can’t remember how but I managed to get her email address and, though she was on vacation, a flurry of electronic messages flew back and forth between here and Mexico.
Her friends — Gail and Anne — assured her this new guy was interested in her but she was having none of it.
They were right, however. A couple of months later found us getting closer every day, with a lot of romancing over the fence between our backyards. I remember our first real kiss.
She enjoyed the idea of the newspaper’s city editor bringing in the paper when she invited him for morning coffee.
At some point, we became a couple — the science teacher and the journalist — and we found there was quite an audience out there for a geriatric love story. Who knew?
I wrote about a Friday night in the Stockade during the Christmas season where there’s always a party.
“The snow was falling softly as we cut across the First Presbyterian Church parking lot, in and out of the shadows of an ancient brick portico, on our way to the Van Dyck, the storied jazz club.
“The lyrics to a Dan Fogelberg song kept playing in my head. ‘Met my old lover at the grocery store … the snow was falling Christmas eve …’ ”
The column prompted an immediate response from a friend in Georgetown. I denied there was anything going on, but they were right not to believe me.
Months later, our mutual friends were not surprised when we told them we were getting married. “It was never a question of ‘if,’ ” they said. “It was a question of ‘when.’ ”
We slipped into a comfortable, easy relationship and came to realize that, though we had never met, we knew each other quite well, having lived in parallel universes for a long time. Our friends, I’m convinced, believe we had been secretly dating for years.
We try not to waste precious time. We know we don’t have 40 years ahead of us.
One friend thinks that we knew each other in a past life but never managed to connect.
It’s as good a theory as any I’ve heard.
Irv Dean is the Gazette’s city editor. Opinions expressed are his own and not necessarily those of the newspaper. Reach him at P.O. Box 1090, Schenectady, N.Y. 12301 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.