After 36 years of divorce, my parents got married again. Up until the day Mimi and Sol asked me to help them fill out a marriage license application online, I wasn’t even sure of their marital status.
He always said it was none of my business, while she maintained they were married. Apparently, my dad only revealed information on a need-to-know basis and she lived in fantasy land.
From what I pieced together, they originally married in 1950 and divorced in 1980, though this dissolution never stopped them from shacking up. Their romance during the divorce years confused my sister and me. He bought her a beautiful home in South Florida, and he resided in South Carolina. She spent freely and he paid the bills. They vacationed together, and when the temperature soared during Florida summers, she stayed with him.
Their licit affair continued until New Year’s Eve 2016 in Las Vegas. With their marriage license in hand and an appointment at City Hall, my folks, my sister and I filed into the Office of Civil marriages, where photos of celebrity weddings adorned the walls. My parents followed in the footsteps of Mia and Frank, Priscilla and Elvis, and Joanne and Paul.
After a bit of paperwork, Mimi and Sol stood in front of the county clerk and a fake floral canopy decorated with tulle. Being Jewish, we pretended it was a chuppah.
My on-again/off-again beau of a dozen years, Rick, planned to meet us in Vegas, but then he thought better of it. Two years prior to this wedding date, my parents had everyone convene in Sin City over the Thanksgiving holiday, promising they would tie the knot during the trip. My father got cold feet at the last minute and all we got was a hot turkey dinner. Rick’s explanation for not joining in on round two was quite simple: Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice …
I’m happy to report that this time Rick was the fool, because the nuptials went off without a hitch. The dapper groom dressed in a deep-blue suit and a bright-blue shirt that matched his eyes. The bride looked fancy in her faux-fur duster layered over a tan blouse and slacks.
Sol gently held both of Mimi’s hands in his while they repeated the vows the clerk recited. When the ritual finished and they were introduced as husband and wife, my sister and I cried tears of relief. We were no longer the product of a broken family. And we did something that most kids never do, we signed on the dotted line as witnesses to our parents’ marriage.
My mother, the 83-year-young bride, was absolutely giddy. My father, at 87, had a twinkle in his eye. I told everyone we passed that they just got married and my father shook hands with perfect strangers as they congratulated him.
The lovely evening continued with a carriage ride (OK, it was really an Uber SUV) through Las Vegas to the doorstep of Michael Mina’s, my first foray into the delights of a Michelin-star rated restaurant. We ordered enough food for a wedding party twice our size and passed plates around the table, allowing the four of us to sample all the delectable dishes.
Dinner conversation included talk of my dad’s upcoming and well-deserved retirement after more than seven decades of working full-time. The workaholic finally agreed to step away from his business at the end of January, just 30 days away. They would sell the place in South Carolina and live a life of leisure together in the South Florida home. The future looked golden.
We rang in the New Year together, the newlywed parents and their two spinster daughters. The next day, we flew home to four separate airports, filled with hope for a rewarding and healthy 2017.
My mother spent the first two weeks of January preparing for my father’s arrival, happily Marie Kondo-ing her home to make space for his belongings. He found a realtor and signed the documents for the listing. Retirement was fast approaching.
On the morning of Jan. 20, my father, who checked in every morning with all of us, hadn’t phoned and we couldn’t reach him. Worried, we called the police for a welfare check and started contacting local hospitals. Unfortunately, we found him in one. My father had tumbled down the stairs at a client’s house the night before.
His days were up and down. In a semi-conscious state most of the time, there were still glimpses of my dad. One night he watched CNN and called Trump a schmuck. Another day, he tried to bribe the nurse to let him go home. My family and I clung to those moments, willing him to keep getting better, even as he endured setbacks like pneumonia and a blood clot.
Although Sol fought hard to stay with us and embark on his new life with Mimi, he passed away in her arms on Valentine’s Day. The dynamo with a keen wit and a gentle heart was gone. I miss him tremendously, especially those daily phone calls where he shared his enthusiasm about closing a tough deal at work, winning a bundle playing craps or finishing a good book.
My mother has adjusted to life without my father, although she now suffers from the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease and resides in an assisted-living community. Photos of Sol are displayed on almost every flat surface of her home, keeping his memory alive. She still recalls the first time she saw him and both weddings.
The Covid pandemic prevents my sister and me from seeing her. Phone calls consist of us prompting her that she’s speaking to her children. Sadly, we’re fading from my mom’s mind. The saving grace is that she seems content in her new world.
This Valentine’s Day marks the fourth anniversary of Sol’s passing. It may seem incongruent, but Feb. 14 is still a day of love for me. It’s the day when we light the Yahrzeit candle in his honor and talk about the mensch who was my father and friend.
May we all appreciate the gift of life and show our love for the people we hold near—even if they are six feet away. Happy Valentine’s Day.