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Turning Tides: Second Wife, Second Best

As told to Leah Gebber

I was one of those women who, never having found the right person, seemed to whither and shrivel into premature old age. And then, in an Indian summer, when I was 49, I was introduced to a widower seven years my senior. David was 56, with six children. His wife had passed on four years before and, gregarious and sociable by nature, he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life alone.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

We were introduced by a mutual friend. Six weeks later we were engaged. David was generous — when he laughed, his whole body shook, as if he was glad to let humor take over him. He gave of his time, listening to and advising all the people who flocked to him. He was generous to his children, giving them not just money, but encouragement. And there was his turn of phrase — he knew just how to tell you how much he believed in you.

The South African community where I live is small, and people were thrilled for us. There were hundreds of faces at the “small” reception we had and I didn’t realize how many people had always smiled at me yet looked upon my gray hair with a twinge of pain. They came out en masse to wish us mazel tov and shower us with their good-hearted wishes.

David’s six children were all married by then, with homes of their own. They came to our vort, kissed me, eyed me, and then withdrew to corners. I ignored it. I had waited long for my share of happiness, and I wasn’t going to let anything cloud my joy. Besides, I thought that night after the guests had gone home and I lay, exhausted in bed, unable to sleep and close my eyes on the delicious thrills of the day, I’m sure they’ll appreciate their father’s happiness. Why, David and I could have 30 years of marriage ahead of us. Surely they didn’t want him to spend the rest of his life in lonely dependence, flitting between his children’s homes for Shabbos and Yom Tov, surviving on boiled eggs and takeout during the week.

No, they assured me each in turn, on the contrary, they were thrilled that their father was happy, that he had someone in his life again. David’s two daughters, I found, were a delight. They genuinely wanted to get to know me, to be part of the wedding preparations, to give their children a new “bubby.” And although when we got engaged the last thing on my mind was to become a stepmother, I made an effort with David’s daughters. I wanted them to feel comfortable around me so that they’d be comfortable in our home. And they responded in kind.

But as we planned the wedding together I caught a whiff of less-than-pleasant interactions with David’s sons. When I confronted him about this, he opened up to me.

 

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