By Stu Turgel
Mythology is full of many fascinating characters but none more idyllic and romantic than that rascally scamp Cupid. When the arrow hits you from this symbol of desire, love, attraction and affection, you immediately fall in love. Many couples are lucky to be struck by Cupid’s arrow once, but it is the truly lucky ones who are fortunate to be struck twice. And when the second time is the charm, well, that truly is a blessing.
Judy and I met 50 years ago when I was in the last year of my Army service, and she was a local college girl in her hometown of Denver, CO. I would regularly attend Friday night services at the Jewish chapel at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver. Judy and other young Jewish women from the community attended to offer hospitality and help young out of town servicemen feel welcome and connected to the community.
We were not the first couples to find love during Kabbalat Shabbat services. Other G.I.’s met and fell in love with local girls who would become their wives. But as John Lennon said: “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” And for us, unfortunately, our marriage didn’t last. The basketball term for it is: “No harm, no foul.” After four years, we went our separate ways without children and with no further contact again, sort of.
Eventually, we both re-married. Careers made gypsies of us. We each moved around the country many times. And life being what it is, we each saw the end to our second marriages.
In 2006, I found my way to the Phoenix area, having been recruited from Baltimore to lead the Jewish Community Foundation.
One day while looking at Facebook, I received one of those messages many of us are familiar with. It was Facebook telling me that I might want to be Facebook friends with Judy Frieder because we shared 19 mutual Facebook friends. The name meant nothing to me, but the photo was unmistakable. It was the woman I had once been married to. I never knew what her second married name was. Nor was I ever interested to know where she was. I never tried to find her. I wouldn’t have known how to even if I had wanted. I didn’t even know if she was still living. But Facebook had just told me she was, and even after decades apart, I would have recognized her in a crowd. The name was different, but the face was the same.
But 19 mutual friends? We didn’t even have 19 mutual friends when we were married. How was that possible. After a little sleuthing, I discovered that all 19 mutual friends lived in the Phoenix area. Eureka! Judy was either a winter visitor to Phoenix, or perhaps she even lived here.
I had no particular interest in hitting the Facebook button, which would send a friend request to her. But the fates had something else in mind for us.
A few weeks later, my father, Judy’s ex-father-in-law, passed, away. Judy tells it this way. She had let her subscription to the Jewish News lapse for several years, but for some reason, she decided to re-subscribe. The very first issue of the paper to arrive in her mailbox was the one with my father’s obituary. She had moved here permanently in 2001, and from the time I came to the Valley five years later, she knew I was here because I was highly visible in the Jewish community. But she chose to remain stealth, and she never contacted me. We had no contact with each other for 36 years. At least not until my dad died when she sent a condolence message.
Having ignored the Facebook message urging us to be online friends, I wasn’t going to ignore her expression of sympathy when she learned that my father had died.
As they say, one thing led to another, and after an exchange of emails and Facebook messages, we agreed to have lunch. I think it is fair to say that we were both nervous about the reunion. But it went well, and it continued to go well until we were both hit again by another of Cupid’s arrows. We reunited, and we have been working on building a life together that is as different from our first years together as we have both become today. Judy likes to tell people that 50 years ago, we were “too young and too dumb” with family baggage and issues that handicapped our marriage almost from the start.
But that was then, and this is now, and we both feel blessed to have been brought back together again. Was it fate, karma, luck, divine intervention, or that rascally scamp Cupid? Who knows? But what we do know is that we are now and were always meant to be each other’s beshert. I guess it’s true what the lyricist wrote in that old classic tune:
“Love is lovelier the second time around. Just as wonderful with both feet on the ground.”
So, today, with our feet planted more securely on the ground than they were 50 years ago, it’s Judy and me and our little Maltipoo makes three. We thank Hashem for bringing us together again. And on Valentine’s Day, when we feel like we have a little extra thanks to give out, we send our appreciation to Cupid for having an extra arrow in his quiver for us.
Stu Turgel is a broadcaster at RADIO PHOENIX, one of America’s largest internet-based community radio stations. He is also a blogger and a consultant providing philanthropy and nonprofit management services to charitable organizations. See more of Stu’s writings at The Phoenix File.