How to Find a New Companion

By Marvin Druger

Victoria in Venice, during one of trips abroad with writer Marvin Druger.
Victoria in Venice, during one of trips abroad with writer Marvin Druger.

If you read my articles in 55 PLUS, you probably know that my dear wife, Pat, died in 2014, after a relationship of 60 years.

The loss was more than devastating.

We loved, laughed, worked, traveled and parented together and had a warm, wonderful relationship. We had agreed that, if one of us died, the survivor should go on living life to the fullest. I never thought she would actually die, but she did. I was at a loss as to what to do with my life.

My granddaughter enrolled me in an online dating service, and I ended up dating seven women at the same time. All of them were nice, but lonely and seeking companionship. Eventually, I did accidentally meet a woman who seemed compatible with me.

I met her in Wegmans supermarket in Dewitt. She was standing in front of me at the check-out, buying stuff that I would never eat. I started a brief conversation with her.

Victoria turned out to be an attractive, warm, intelligent, talented audiologist with a good sense of humor who laughed at my jokes. We have shared life’s adventures for more than five years now. She is much younger than me, but she likes older men and who knows what will happen tomorrow. Usually, I would tell the story of how we met in the hope that it would stimulate others to relive their own romantic rendezvous. However, Victoria beat me to the punch. Below is her account of our meeting.

Victoria’s Version

I was well into my second year of my fast from men. There had been one too many attempts at men gone foul and I was taking time to regroup, reframe, restore, wondering if my life would ever include even one more man. I was at Wegmans and intended to experiment with life; maybe try some new foods. So, I put lamb chops in my cart, sushi, mango, pomegranates and other items. At check-out, I placed the items on the belt and saw there a smorgasbord of new experiences. “But I have no idea of how to cook lamb chops,” I thought.

Apparently, the customer behind me had taken note of the jumble, because he commented as much. I agreed, taking note that he had a bag of lettuce and bottle of ketchup — not very appetizing and unrelated. Then he spread his arms wide. With his disproportionate features — prominent eyebrows, small blue eyes, long chin and large nose, smile as wide as his outstretched arms, he resembled a bird. “I’m famous!” he exclaimed. “Well, that’s nice, but it was rather unusual to advertise oneself to a complete stranger,” I thought. He continued, “My wife died last year. I’m alone.” Then, he handed me his card, which was not paper, but a magnifier with a caricature of himself on it. I replied, “I am sorry for your loss.” Then, I reached into my wallet and pulled out one of my cards and gave it to him, saying, “I’m alone too.”

“Why the heck did I do that?” I wondered, and went about my business.

A few days later I received an email from the bird man: “Perhaps your life is complicated, but if it’s not, I would like to take you to lunch.” I did not respond, but took the matter under advisement. Later that week, at my ceramics class, I put the whole interaction out for discussion. “This complete stranger came up to me at Wegmans, gave me his card, and said, ‘I’m famous.’ He wants to take me to lunch. What do you think?” “Who is he?” “His name is Marvin Druger, He’s a professor emeritus from SU, quite a bit older.”

“He is famous.” said Dianna. “He has a radio program and he has a nice voice.” A quiet, gentle, former colleague of Marvin’s who was molding his clay, added, “He will not be at a loss for talking.” Donna chimed in: “If he’s older and lost his wife, he’s hunting for a strong female and is thumping his chest to attract you.”

I widened my inquiry to some friends of my sisters, a member of the S.U. biology department and his wife. “Oh, he is a legend in his own mind, but he’s a nice guy and he was very good to his wife… and he has a lake house.”

I continued to mull over whether or not to break my fast from men by going to lunch with the famous professor, “Why not?” Jane said. “He might be interesting and turn out to be a good friend.” Well, OK. So, I sent a reply to his email. “My life is not complicated, and I have done a bit of research, finding out that you are, indeed, famous, and I would like to go to lunch with you.”

We set a date for lunch at Phoebes, a popular spot on East Genesee Street, across from Syracuse Stage. Before the date, I prepared and again took up the discussion with my ceramics class as to what to wear, eat and talk about.

‘A few days later I received an email from [Marvin Druger], “Perhaps your life is complicated, but if it’s not, I would like to take you to lunch.” I did not respond, but took the matter under advisement. Later that week, at my ceramics class, I put the whole interaction out for discussion.’

“Don’t talk about other men,” Karen said, “Men don’t like that.” “Don’t eat salad,” Donna added. “It might get stuck in your teeth. Order quiche, and don’t have dessert — you don’t want him to spend too much money on the first date.” “Let me show you something,” Karen interjected, “At the end of the date, if you know that he’s just not the one, hold out your hand to shake his and say, ‘I’m sorry, but this just isn’t going to work out.” We practiced the handshake.

On the day of the date, I was running late, as usual, and I pulled into the nearly full parking lot. I saw him, pulling in ahead of me, a little late himself. He parked his car crookedly in front of the attendant’s shed and got his OK to park free, owing to his elevated emeritus status. I had to park in the nearby garage, which made me even later. Hurriedly, I walked into Phoebe’s and spotted Marvin at a table for two facing away from me. Funny, for a man of such intelligence, he has a rather small head, and I sat down across from him explaining, “I would never stand you up Marvin.” I said. Taking the menu, I thought, “Don’t get a salad. Get the quiche or soup.” The waiter came and began his speech, “We are out of quiche.” Crap. I hardly recall what we talked about, but my sense was that this was a very compelling, intelligent man. I picked at my open-faced sandwich, carefully avoiding all lettuce. Looking at him from across the table, I noted that he tends to hold his head down at an angle, so that one can barely see his small blue eyes below his thick eyebrows. He barely looked me in the eye. But he sparkled, was quite funny, intelligent and, yes, he was quite taken with his achievements, having taught 50,000 students, won many prestigious awards, authored several books of poetry and articles. He was interested in my past — the divorces, but I didn’t really want to go into it. By the end of our first date, I’d say the ratio of on-air talk time Marvin to Victoria talk was 80 to 20.

A few weeks later, we had another lunch date at Phoebe’s. This time, he picked me up at my house to drive me there. The 80-to-20 Marvin-to-Victoria talk ratio continued, but I enjoyed his company. After lunch, he got into his car, waved goodbye and drove out of the parking lot, leaving me standing alone. Where was he going? In a few minutes, he returned to the lot. He had forgotten that he drove me to Phoebe’s in his car. I thought, “What am I getting myself into with this guy?”

Marvin’s Response and Advice

I hope that you enjoyed reading Victoria’s version of this encounter and that it might help you inquire about the perspective of your own spouse or significant other. I heard that if you want to meet someone new, just go to Wegmans on Thursday night and wheel around an empty cart. That means you are available. A friend of mine told me that he did this and nothing happened. I told him, “It depends on how you wheel the cart, and you have to be lucky.” I was lucky.

So, good luck to all of you who seek a new companion.