a blog with cultural bulimia.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

a story (fairy tale)

love story
"Do you know what it means to come home to someone who loves you?
To come home to someone who feeds you and cares for you?
It means you're in the wrong house."
In poetry and music, love and youth may be inextricably linked. But Millie Umschweis and Arnold Spitz know better. Young love was theirs for the taking. But that was 56 years ago, when friends fixed up Ms. Umschweis, then just 17, and Mr. Spitz, 33, on a blind date.

"I remember exactly what he wore, exactly what he looked like," she recalled. "We had a wonderful time, and he was a perfect gentleman. And then he asked if he could kiss me good night. I said, `No! What did you do for me, buy me dinner?' No girl ever said this to him."

He was not dissuaded, and within two years they had become very close, though Ms. Umschweis knew by then that Mr. Spitz was unavailable: his wife was unwilling to agree to a timely end to their failed marriage. "I was in love with her," Mr. Spitz, now 89, said of Ms. Umschweis. "But I was in the midst of a divorce that I couldn't shake."

Ms. Umschweis, 73, said: "He released me. It was difficult — very, very much so for both of us. But life went on, and he married a wonderful lady, and I married a wonderful man, and we had wonderful children. And I never saw him again. Did I think of him? Of course."

Over the years, Mr. Spitz thought of her, too, when, on his way to Snapco, his fastener manufacturing company in Hillside, N.J., he passed Millie's, her dress shop in West Orange. Driving by, he would sometimes say to his son and daughter: "I knew that girl once. I used to take her out."

Each had, they agreed, happy family lives — until 11 years ago, when Ms. Umschweis's husband and one of her two sons died within 13 months of each other. A couple of years later, Mr. Spitz's second wife, whom he had married in 1955 after finally receiving a divorce from his first, fell ill with Alzheimer's disease. Eventually, she was moved into a nursing home, where he visited her every day until the end.

In September 2002, Ms. Umschweis was reading the obituaries in the newspaper and saw one about Mr. Spitz's wife. "I didn't know where he lived," she said, "but I looked for a phone number for his son, and I left a message on his machine. I said, `My name is Millie, and if I have the right party, please call me back. And please give your father my condolences. I know what it is to lose.' "

That night, Mr. Spitz returned home to find a note. It read simply, "Call Millie."

And so they spoke for the first time in more than a half-century and arranged to meet. "I think I went out with Arnold more out of curiosity," she said. "I wondered, Would he remember me?"

He did. "In fact, when she came into the car, I saw for a moment that she was 17 years old," he said.

She said: "I knew immediately we would be together. "I had lost half a family. I didn't want to lose any more. But I love him. And I felt that life is a gamble, and there are no guarantees."

The night before the wedding, Mr. Spitz, who still works six days a week, reflected on their timing.

"Love came a little late, but mature love perhaps is deeper and stronger," he said. "It's completely engulfing, a complete feeling of giving to each other what we can possibly give. It's very exciting."

Ms. Umschweis wore a pale mauve Chantilly lace gown at the ceremony last Sunday afternoon at the baronial red-brick clubhouse at the Maplewood Country Club in Maplewood, N.J., where 100 guests had gathered. The rabbi, Alfred Landsberg, found occasion to repeat a Henny Youngman joke about marriage: "Do you know what it means to come home to someone who loves you? To come home to someone who feeds you and cares for you? It means you're in the wrong house."

Asked about the logic of a union so late in life, the bride said: "We may have only a couple of years left together, but Arnold taught me that you have to live each day. As my mother, who is 95, said, `You're never too old to love. And the heart pounds the same at 17 as it does at 73.'"

love story

Via NYTimes Vows: Millie Umschweis and Arnold Spitz