Sally Wendkos Olds of New York City is the mother of three daughters, Nancy, Jennifer, and Dorri, and five grandchildren, Stefan, Maika, Anna, Lisa, and Nina, who range in age from 11 to 29. Sally was married to David Mark Olds for nearly 54 years until his sudden death in 2009. She has won awards for her book and magazine writing about intimate relationships and personal growth (http://www.sallywendkosolds.com), and is the author of 11 books, including Super Granny and The Complete Book of Breastfeeding. She is currently writing a book tentatively titled The New Normal, for people whose life partner has died a year or more previously.
Dear Nancy, Jenny and Dorri,
Your father and I met on a blind date after he traded phone numbers with a man I had dated for a little while before deciding he was not for me. That first lunch, on Wednesday, October 13, 1955, was beyond wonderful. Dad and I talked and talked, and I was totally enthralled. Not only was he urbane, sophisticated, witty, handsome, sexy, and in a glamorous profession –- radio personality –he was warm, open about himself and his life and interested in me and my life. In that conversation over lunch we discovered that we were soul-mates. After lunch I told a classmate, “I just met the most wonderful man.”
When he came to pick me up for a date four days later and asked me to help him with his bow-tie, my fingers trembled as I did it and I knew this was the man I wanted to spend my life with. Over the next month we saw each other about twice a week, and then he invited me to come to a family party. The night I received the invitation, I complained to my mother, “If he’s waiting to see what his family thinks of me before he asks me to marry him, I don’t know if I want to marry him. I’ve been sure for weeks — why isn’t he?”
Later that week (before his family party), we were invited to dinner by my friend Margie, who was married to Dad’s friend Bob. After dinner while I was in the kitchen with Margie, she warned me, “Mark has quite a reputation as a ladies’ man.” In the next room Bob was telling Dad, “She’s a nice girl — don’t do anything you would regret.”
Coming home, we pulled up in front of my parents’ apartment in Dad’s black Chevy convertible with red upholstery. He drew me into his arms, kissed me, and then said. “I think we ought to get married.” I barely let him get the words out of his mouth when I said, “I think so too.” I ran into the apartment to tell my parents, “We’re getting married and we want to do it as soon as possible!” I worried that they would be against the marriage because Dad was 13 years older than I and had been married before, but they fell in love with him too and were happy with my choice. Four weeks later, two months after we had met, we married. We were lucky to have had an amazing life together for more than half a century.
Dad gave his version of how we met in the 168-page autobiography he wrote for all of you, in which he chronicled his boyhood, his Army service during World War II, and going into broadcasting as announcer, disk jockey, and finally general manager of a radio station. Here’s an excerpt from his version:
I remember sitting at Helen Siegel Wilson’s, a well known watering spot in Philadelphia, glancing out the window to see if I could spot my blind date. A pretty young woman was just coming in, carrying what looked to me like school books. “It can’t be,” I thought. But it was. And that’s how it started. We talked for a long time, as we worked our way through lunch. My feelings of robbing the cradle (I was almost 35, she 22 and about to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania) disappeared. She might have looked like a teenager, but she was poised, wise beyond her years, honest, and open. “Maybe?” I thought as I asked when I could see her again.
Over the next few weeks we saw more and more of each other. … We went on to see much more of each other in the six cities we lived in over the years. And we had fun with the three of you — summering on Fire Island; going camping; surviving gerbils, hamsters, dogs, cats, tropical fish, and canaries; attending your class plays, concerts, recitals, and gymnastic meets; and watching our three very attractive, very smart, very different children grow up.