March 30, 2017
Barbara Azrialy and her boyfriend, Lewis Rosenthal. Photo courtesy of Barbara Azrialy

fell in love with my boyfriend, Lewis, and he with me, impulsively and ferociously, figuring everything would work out in time. He sold his house in Florida, moved himself and his two cats in with me in Los Angeles in January 2013, all within four months of our meeting. And yes, we met online and knew we were very different from each other; but we were so in love that nothing mattered except that we wanted to be together.

We’re older than most “second-chapter” couples — in our 70s. He had been widowed for less than a year after a 22-year marriage. I had been divorced for 41 years.

Sure, I had read his postings: He was passionate about opera, golf and European art and was looking for a once- or twice-a-week relationship. I was still teaching, listened only to rock ’n’ roll and was a political junkie. He doted on Maggie and Gracie, his two cats, and I was not a pet person. But we both had grandchildren we adored and valued friends.

So, after conversing through emails and phone calls, we decided to meet. We liked each other’s sense of humor. He thought it was clever that I called him “Kareem” because he spelled Lewis like the former UCLA basketball star, Lew Alcindor, who played for the L.A. Lakers under the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And I liked that he was independent because, in my decades of being unattached, I often traveled and went to plays and movies solo. I laughed off his coming out to meet me, thinking nothing really mattered anyway unless we had chemistry. “If I can’t look at you and think I can kiss you, it won’t work.” Yeah, maybe we’d have one good date, we’d wish each other well, and he’d return to his Boca Babes in Boynton Beach.

Boy, was I wrong!  When he walked into my condo, amid the 20 phone banking volunteers for Obama who I hosted four nights a week, I thought how nice that one of them had brought me flowers. I asked his name so I could apply a name tag so he could start making phone calls, but he replied, “No, I’m Lewis. Kareem. Your date.” And without skipping a beat, I looked at him and replied, ‘Yes, I could definitely kiss you.’ ”

And from that moment on, our dates never ended, and we fell madly, happily in love even though his best friend had put a hex on our relationship, not wanting him to move away from Florida. He showed me his grandson’s grandparent booklet, in which he had given advice, “Never make a hasty decision.” And my own adult children asked if I was insane to let him move in so quickly.

And now, it’s been  4 1/2  years of living together, along with the cats. His family pictures intermingle with mine, his Shakespeare and Scrabble books are side by side with my Oprah magazines. And all of his friends and my friends know one another.

And I wish, oh, how I wish, I could say we live in a state of bliss. But reality sets in. Life experiences set in. The ways we’ve done things for decades have set in. And so we see our differences, and we deal with them.

He uses enough spices on his food to qualify our place as an Indian restaurant; I cook blandly. He believes all clothes can be worn no matter how old, how stained, how shredded. I throw my clothes into a Goodwill bag as soon as a button goes missing or a spot won’t come out in the wash. He watches hourlong dramas; I’m a sitcom maven and relish “The Bachelor.”

So, now, do I dare change this wonderful mensch, who I love? After all, there are the expressions: “You can’t change anyone but yourself.” “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” “A leopard doesn’t change its spots.” Right?

Well, let’s just say, sort of. You see, a year ago when I was buying a new car, my Kareem told me he’d pay the difference if I’d get a bigger engine. I quickly told him, “No problem. I’ll pay it myself if you’ll just let me go through your clothes and give away 10 pieces that are torn, old or stained.”

And he said OK.

So now, let me end this little romance ditty because I’m off to Goodwill again. Negotiating may not mean change, but it works for me. And his shirts and pants are ripe for the taking.

Do you have a story about dating, marriage, singlehood or any important relationship in your life? Email us at meant2be@jewishjournal.com.

BARBARA AZRIALY is a volunteer, writer, retired special education teacher and grandmother living in Westwood.

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