“It’s Never Too Late” is a series that tells the stories of people who decide to fulfill their dreams on their own terms.
In 2015, nine months after the death of her husband, Phyllis Raphael, now 86, ran into Stan Leff, now 89, While walking out of Citarella, a grocery store on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
“Stan remembered me from a party on Fire Island in 1974. He said I was on deck serving hors d’oeuvres. But I didn’t remember that,” said Brooklyn-born Ms. Raphael Author. “We knew each other peripherally and saw each other at parties but never spoke to each other until that day.”
By then both had been married twice. Both were widows. Mr Leff’s second wife had died a decade earlier, Ms Raphael’s second husband of 24 years had died Amyloidosis, a rare disease.
“We started talking. After a few nights he called me and asked me to go out,” she said. “He had gotten my number from a mutual friend of ours who thought it was a good time for us to get together. Had the idea and encouraged him to call.”
This meeting turned into a meeting. Then came a date. A second and third followed. So did a relationship. Then love affair.
Six years later, the couple remains deeply committed to each other. Ms. Raphael said they spend some weekends and weekends together; Mr. Leff sleeps in her apartment in a luxurious prewar building on the Upper West Side. A retired bookseller, he lives four blocks away. At present, he has no plans to get married. (The following interview with Ms. Raphael has been edited and condensed.)
How was your life after your husband passed away?
I was going to a support group in a New York hospital full of grief, which was friendly to me at the time. I used to go to dinner parties, there were always five single women and two men. I didn’t think I’d ever go to Match.com. I was about to throw myself at the mercy of my three kids and my friends. Stan changed everything.
How did the relationship start?
We saw Amy Schumer’s movie”train accident“For our first meeting. I found him very attractive. I loved sitting next to him in the movie. We went to Lime Leaf for dinner, which is no longer in business. I offered to pay my share; He offered to pay the bill. It set up something. Shortly after that we started seeing each other.
We went to plays, movies, dinners and took a walk in Riverside Park. I couldn’t understand what we were doing. That November we were watching a movie at our house and I thought the time had come. I put my head on his shoulder. Which opened the door. He told me: ‘Winter is coming. It’s getting cold. I don’t want to go home at night.’ I understood what it meant. We became lovers that night.
Have you ever thought you would be in another relationship?
I never dreamed that there would be someone else. I knew I would be single, but I wasn’t looking for a relationship. When I started watching Stan, I didn’t think this widow would grow into much more than neighborhood friends. Once this was happening, I was very surprised. I thought that part of my life was over, but it was not. At my age you think, ‘Okay, if this is what life is going to hand me, I’m going to take it.’ So I started looking at him seriously.
I submitted a few years ago Piece For short love stories about our relationship. I originally wrote this as an exercise, this is what I do when I’m trying to write and can’t get started. I wanted to write something, and Stan was important in my life. He is still.
How is this relationship different from your relationship with your second husband?
This is a different kind of love. I used to love my husband. We had a very good marriage. As time went on I started to understand him better, but I don’t think we were soul mates. Sometimes Stan gets closer. There is sex, affection and longing for each other. We care about each other a lot. My kids love him and that means a lot. He is dedicated to his children. I couldn’t love someone who wasn’t. This relationship works for both of us. I’m crazy about him. Not the way I used to live with my husband, but differently. I am so happy to see him when he walks in the door. It’s not enthusiastic. You can hold your breath, but we would suffer without each other.
How does this relationship work?
We are two people who have a really good time together. We grew up in the same era. We laugh at those jokes. We both like the tune of the show. We remember the same things. He is my partner, but more so. Stan is at the top of my emergency list. I have faith in him. He makes me feel safe. He is kind, reliable. We are good physically. I didn’t understand what love really is, but it comes pretty close.
What are your plans for the future?
Stan fits into my life this time. He calls me his girlfriend. I call him my boyfriend. We are more than friends; We are more than lovers. I don’t want to get married. I don’t want to mess with what we have. What we have is really good.
What tips can you give to people who feel stuck?
Try something new that you don’t usually do, or something you didn’t plan to do, or something you’re passionate about. Take an acting class or cooking class, or go to a museum. These things let you connect with other people you might not normally have met. It can make your life more alive. pick up the phone. send an email. Think of something you’d like to do and then ask someone if they’d like to do it with you. Don’t be afraid to let things happen.
Any words of wisdom to share?
Not to expect. I didn’t expect this to happen or be with anyone for six years. I thought he must have other women in his life, but he didn’t. I had high hopes when I got married. I don’t have anything like this here. You never know what’s around the corner. That thought made me happy.
life is a gift; it ends. When you are my age, you start looking back at your life. I feel like there are many chances I’ve lost, but I’ve discovered a lot. We all have an expiry date. It’s better to use the gift you have.
We’re looking for people who decide that it’s never too late to change gears, change their lives, and chase dreams. Should we talk to you or someone you know? share your story Here.