By Irv Atlas
It was a year ago, the morning of July 6, when I retrieved the messages from my home answering machine. There were about a dozen calls referring to a My View article I had written that was published that morning in The Buffalo News.
The caller ID feature told me the name of one of the callers who didn’t leave a message. I knew he was deceased.
Several days passed and I grew curious. I noticed I still had the number of the deceased caller. I redialed that number. The call changed my life.
It rang several times before a woman answered. I identified myself and explained that I was returning a call that had been made from that number. She said her name was Barbara and she had called regarding my article about couples picking out their monuments. She recently had to do that when her husband died in 2016 at the age of 85. (I knew who he was since we both attended School 53 in Buffalo. He was a year older and graduated in 1944). Ironically, I went to his funeral.
Barbara remembered that whenever I would run into her husband we would talk about our days at “good old School 53.”
She had known about my wife, Gloria, who died unexpectedly in 2014 at age 82 after 62 years of marriage. I had been coping with her death and living alone in my Town of Tonawanda home. I was lonely, but not looking for a companion.
As we talked it was decided we should meet for dinner the next week. I returned the phone to its cradle.
“What have I done?” I said out loud.
“You just made a date,” was my answer.
At the age of 86 I was going on a date with a young “chick” who is 82.
“Wait until my sons hear about this,” I thought.
Worried that I might not be able to locate her home, I used Google Maps and took a dry run to her home, just in case I had a “senior moment.”
The day arrived and there I was at her front door, a red rose in hand, a freshly washed face and car, and a feeling of apprehension.
We ate in a nearby Italian restaurant on Transit Road. Her smile was radiant.
The more we talked, the more we realized how much we had in common: graduates of Buffalo State Teachers College; knowing each other’s spouse; knowledge of many of the same people; same religion; and some of our three children knew of each other. We decided it was really a small world.
The next week I was invited to her house for dinner. (The main course was beef brisket.) Barbara loves to cook and she was delighted that I was a good assistant in the kitchen.
It felt good to laugh and to realize we enjoyed being together. One of our early “dates” was a visit to the cemetery to inform each deceased spouse of our new relationship. We sensed their approval.
The last 14 years of her 60 years of marriage, Barbara was the primary caregiver to her attorney husband, who was dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. She reminds me a great deal of Gloria. She is mentally strong, dedicated to her family, committed to helping others, volunteers for worthy causes, strong in her convictions and a patron of the arts.
Meeting Barbara's family and friends has been a good test of my memory skills.
After celebrating the one-year anniversary of that first date we are grateful to My View and my answering machine for helping to make all this possible.
And by the way, Barbara's husband's first name was Irv.
Irv Atlas, of Town of Tonawanda, had his life changed by a phone call.