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Recently, I shared a story of love in the later years. It was a touching tale of how two elderly people – a 93-year-old man and his wife a decade younger — met, became good friends, fell in love and married. That was 34 years ago.
Both had been divorced for some time from their other spouses. Both were lonely. But with the responsibility of raising children and keeping a roof over their heads, there was little time for even a crumb of happiness. Living in the same neighborhood, and being invited to the same parties, they soon became good friends and found solace in one another with their similar struggles.
These two could talk the same language — that of loneliness and sadness. They could support each other with understanding and compassion. They could wipe away each other’s tears as they held each other in their arms.
Soon their friendship turned into love, said Irene Siegel as she reached across the table for Shelly’s hand. As corny as it sounds, she added, “I never thought I could find this kind of love.’’
The couple married, retired to Florida and began a new chapter in their lives. Shelly Siegel was an avid tennis player — 95-degree temperature didn’t faze him but frightened Irene so. She worried about his health and feared for his life.
Recently as Irene and I sat on the deck overlooking the tennis courts in our senior community, we watched Shelly begin his second set, winning the first match six love.
“Look how fast he runs around the court. It’s OK for a 50-year-old to play in this heat, but for a 93-year-old man, it’s crazy,” she said. “I don’t know how I could live without him.”
She didn’t have to. The couple was involved in a car accident near their Boynton Beach community on July 31. Irene died that night. Shelly died at the hospital on Aug. 5.
Bea Lewis is a journalist, author and public speaker who lives in Boynton Beach.