Off the Bench: It is now three years, and counting

By James W. Dolan
Reporter Columnist

Here I am three years into a new relationship following the death in 2015 of my wife of 53 years. I thought it appropriate to bring you up to date on a phase of life I neither expected nor prepared for. After recovering from the shock of the loss, I determined I would not be happy alone. I needed a companion; not just anyone, but someone special.

I found her, but not as a product of a nationwide search or a casual venture into the dating world. Instead, I relied on a character trait I had nurtured in my youth that served me well over the years: Dumb luck. The dumb part was easy for me, but how does one develop the insight to identify, capture, and retain luck.

I tried praying, but that didn’t work. You can ask God for guidance, virtues, hope, understanding, and forgiveness, but not for something as superficial as luck. You cannot study and acquire luck. You cannot buy it or inherit it. If you’re fortunate enough to get it, you can never be sure you’ll retain it. Luck is fickle, good or bad, and often elusive. Once you think you’ve got it, it disappears. For whatever reason, I seem to have had more than my share.

Luck, in the person of a mutual friend, brought me Meredith. The friend told me a few months after my wife died that she knew someone who had also lost her spouse whom I might be interested in. Unfortunately, my friend had forgotten her name. A couple of months later, she called to say she had just seen her again and said she was interested. I called, asked her to dinner, and like magic, we clicked. I was smitten!

There were just so many things about her that I found appealing. Not just that she was attractive ; she was lively, smart, engaging, and fun to be with. We were compatible in so many respects, even to the point where my weaknesses were her strengths. We have never had an argument and when we disagree, which is rare, I know enough to happily capitulate.

Friends and family call her “Merry” for good reason. It’s a name that captures her essential good nature. A great disposition masks her strength, courage, and perseverance in the face of life’s travails. One disadvantage of love in later life is less time; on the other hand, there are fewer distractions. That combination tends to keep us focused on nurturing our relationship. Fewer distractions concentrates attention while limited time enhances intensity.

Sometimes we feel a little guilty with having such a good time after the loss of a loved one. I remind her that “you play the hand you’re dealt.” Our spouses would have wanted us to be happy. Although, I confess, perhaps not this happy. One of my wife’s favorite expressions was: “Get a life!” So I like to think she would approve.

Between us we are able to bounce around among four homes – in Milton, Weymouth, Bretton Woods, and Marco Island. Our families seem happy that we found each other. Describing our relationship can be a little awkward. Introducing her as “my girlfriend” seems a bit juvenile. “Main squeeze” is even worse. “Beloved” is overly dramatic. So I’ve settled on “dear friend,” a workable compromise with a touch of dignity.

So rest assured that old age can have an upside. With luck, even at this stage, you can enjoy some “just rewards” before the curtain comes down. A famous Greek philosopher once observed: “We’re not here for a long time but for a good time.” My time is running, but in the interim “let the good times roll.”

James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.