Hunting for a Hero over 50On a hot, sunny evening last July, I sat expectantly on a bench in Yorktown, VA, awaiting the arrival of my first date, post marriage. It had been eleven months and eleven days since my ex and I separated. My pulse thrummed with anticipation. My stomach fizzed with nervousness. The man I was meeting had been recommended to me by His accomplishments intrigued me. He had retired as a captain in the US Navy. If I told you what he does for a living now, I’d have to kill you. He is 6’2”, a 2nd degree black belt, an exquisite writer, and we are compatible personality types according to the Myers-Briggs.

I had bought a new dress for the occasion, with dripping sleeves I fancied as romantic. I spotted him at once, recognizing him from his profile pics. A thick head of white hair, white naval-officer-style moustache, no glasses. He wore a royal blue button-up shirt and light khakis. Honestly, my first thought was He’s too old for me. In fact, he was only eight years older, but the white hair exaggerated the difference. I stood from my bench, and our gazes locked as we neared one another.

We were both mature enough to carry on a meaningless conversation while taking stock of each other. The sun was in my eyes. When I mentioned my disadvantage, he swung around, blocking the sun with his body. His light, hazel eyes conveyed intelligence and interest.

My date had mentioned in his profile that he was old-fashioned. I would come to realize that meant he paid all the bills when we went out. He stood up any time I left or returned to the table. He opened not only building doors for me, but also car doors. You get the idea. That night, we requested a seat outside, on a deck overlooking the York River. The waitress babbled enthusiastically about the specials, frustrating our desire to talk. That’s when I first saw it—a flash of impatience in the Master and Commander’s eyes. I remember thinking, with a slight sinking in my belly, “This man doesn’t suffer fools.”

He ordered a bottle of expensive red wine. Our fare was light—poké and some other appetizer. We began to converse. His experiences riveted me. He spoke with eloquence, in a deep baritone I could have listened to for hours. I learned more about his fascinating career. What he had done for our country roused my respect to unprecedented heights. Over the next few months, I would hear more stories that would render me awestruck. Here I had found a true hero—like the men in my books.

He also had a sensitive side. He loved to write thank-you notes in calligraphy and to listen to Yo Yo Ma play the cello. He was so bright, there wasn’t anything he hadn’t accomplished. He could cook, sew, create his own musical instruments, wire electricity, play the guitar. He lived on a 42-foot sailboat. He collected tobacco pipes, firearms, and blades.

We took a walk along the water after dinner. My hand felt so small in his. I felt safe, honored to be with him. We paused on a pier to watch the sea birds and enjoy the sunset. His hands caressed me through my dress. It was heaven. When I mentioned our age difference, he scooped me off my feet to prove to me he was perfectly capable of taking care of me. I was smitten.

Alas, that flash of impatience I had seen in his eyes for the chattering waitress…that look would come back to haunt me. But for the time being, I started opening my heart to this new man in my life and seeing only the possibilities, enjoying all the good (and there was a lot of that) and denying any potential pitfalls. . Life was sweeter and more promising than it had been in years.