Love in the Time of Virulence

In December, no one outside of China or the CIA knew what was brewing. I ventured north to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania for a cross-country race. I made a wrong turn on the course and got disqualified. My reward for the trip was helping my club with logistics … and muddy shoes.

The next day I met someone who changed my life.

I spoke to a group about my experience, being alone after Diane died and reaching out for friendship, finding common bonds in that group and my running club. Afterward she approached me.

She introduced herself. Her name was Kathy. She said she’d be glad to have coffee if I wanted to talk to someone, and gave me her phone number. I called her that evening and arranged to meet for lunch later in the week.

That’s how I started seeing her. We spent New Year’s Eve together, the first time I’d gone anywhere for New Year’s since Diane got sick. After that I spent more and more time with her. We couldn’t get enough of one another. We were more like lovesick teenagers than seventy-something grandparents. She took me to meet her son and daughter and their families. Her small grandchildren were adorable. Everyone got along.

As Kathy and I traveled along a path of discovery together, the outside world began to intrude into our awareness. A disease grew to a pandemic and took over our lives. Her health concerns became central. Two doctors told her if she caught the virus she would die.

Our last day together, the governor locked down our state. A few days earlier we had split an order of groceries. When it was delivered the next day I brought her share to her front steps. I stood at a safe distance while she took them inside. We said goodbye and “I love you,” and I left.

We have long phone calls, sharing our days, talking about the places we’ll go and the things we’ll see together once this is over. Once it’s over. Whenever that is. Somehow we will survive, and never lose hope that we’ll meet again.