Rescued by Love
Updated: May 27
For too many years my mother, Anna Hoffeld Turner yearned for romantic love to make itself known to her. Handicapped at birth with severely crossed eyes, she was the victim of cruel taunts as a child and thus grew shy and introverted. Although my grandparents took her from doctor to doctor, the surgical ability to rectify her problem did not exist until her late twenties. At last her condition was corrected, but she feared it was too late for her to find love.
Finally, friends of the family introduced mom to my father, an immigrant from Vienna, Austria. On their first date, she thought him very handsome, but, too shy to look directly at him, she only snuck sideways glances. On that fateful evening he took her to the famous Tavern on the Green restaurant in Central Park. She had never been to such a romantic and elegant setting before. “It was so glamorous,” she told me years later.
As a proper Viennese gentleman, my father came calling with boxes of candy and bouquets of flowers. When walking together, dad always proffered his arm to the bashful lady at his side and walked on the outside of the street. Mom was overwhelmed. ”How romantic!”
Dad was an extrovert who loved telling long stories. Mom listened in awe. “He had so many interesting experiences!”
Most importantly my father, a Holocaust survivor, made it his personal mission to make everyone he encountered feel better about themselves. He was a great one for extending compliments. It is therefore very easy to understand why he was so good for my mother. He had many emotional scars due to his terrifying experiences, but an inherent goodness, coupled with a kind of constant striving to look at life with a positive perspective, lay rock solid at my father’s core. I have always been very proud of that aspect of his character. Of all the directions one could choose to go after surviving such a nightmare, he chose the embrace of kindness, compassion, and love.
The courtship went smoothly. Dad made many gestures to show mom and her family that she was cherished and esteemed. His first gift to her, a gold necklace, was presented at the family Sabbath dinner table in front of her entire nuclear family. He understood that this public demonstration of honor and affection would do more for her self regard than to receive it in a private moment. He was very talented at making grand gestures, and they always came with an old-fashioned, charming, and dramatic flourish. I knew no one even remotely like him. Dad was definitely an original!
Their marriage was loving and kind. Mom would always believe she had been rescued by love. Perhaps we all do, at least a little. Consequently she never took that love for granted and she taught me to always cherish and nurture love in all its forms. Her other mantra became “Never give up and never stop growing.” Mom felt tremendous gratitude for her new life and made a conscious decision to embrace it fully. She pushed hard to overcome her shyness by consistently challenging herself to try new and different things.
I believe her active appreciation for life and love was a vital source of her exceptional longevity. Mom lived to the remarkable age of 103.
She also made it her mission to encourage single people to never give up on finding love. This focus extended to her relationship with her doctor. It grieved her that dear Dr. K was alone. Once they finished discussing her terrific bloodwork and the latest political blogs she was reading, mom would reliably ask him “What’s new in the romance department?” Unfortunately there was rarely any promising news. But mom always left him with a vital message: “If you meet someone you like, work fast.”
During her later years, Mom never lost sight of what made her happy. Thus she remained focused on the many romantic relationships in our large extended family. When we settled in for a cozy chat at the kitchen table, she would eagerly pose her favorite question: “What’s new in the romance department?” As I embellished every detail I could possibly imagine, the spark of romance was reignited within her and a remarkable transformation began to take place. With a sparkle in her eye and a glow on her cheeks, mom’s spirits took flight on Cupid’s wings.
Recently in the depths of pandemic despair, I thought back to those cherished conversations with my mother. Suddenly I had one of those life altering “Aha!” moments. Wouldn’t we all benefit from the power of romantic storytelling to lift our spirits?
My mission was born. Within the next two months I created this blog for sharing and delighting in timeless true stories of love and romance. Naturally I named it What’s New in the Romance Department? in honor of my mother.
By embracing my mother’s legacy, I am renewed and reinvented when I was supposed to be in the retirement phase of my life. I’m immersed in a creative passion project that lifts spirits, entertains, and reignites the spark of romance. I’m forging a community of creative, good people who are giving each other so much positive support. And intrinsically, What’s New in the Romance Department? reminds each member of that community to always cherish and nurture love. I know mom would be proud.
Susan has recently retired from her rewarding 22 year career as an educational consultant where she helped young people progress from one chapter of their life to another. Through the years she has also embraced the great honor of officiating at weddings and the excitement of the real estate sales market. She views these varied roles as different threads of the same mission: mentoring and empowering people as they transition to the next step in their lives. Most recently, at a time when we all need to connect, inspire and sustain each other, she is introducing a new thread - stitching together her passion for creative writing with the timeless love stories of those who are generous enough to share.
When my mom turned 100, she was honored as a guest of the New York Mets at a baseball game at Citi Field. A die-hard Mets fan, she was interviewed live on the stadium Jumbotron screen for the entire crowd to see. She was so happy to be wearing her custom Mets jersey, which was presented to her at her 100th birthday party extravaganza.
Traditional Romantic Gestures right out of my father’s playbook:
Giving flowers, boxes of candy and meaningful gifts just because
Opening the door for a lady
Gentleman offering his coat on a chilly day without having to be asked
Are these gestures officially outdated?
Personally, I hope not!
I think when it comes to making your partner feel special, it can be fun to look back at decades gone by drawing from a few of the best ideas and making them your own.
Please share some of your favorite ways to keep the spark of romance burning bright in your relationship!
If you don’t wish to post your ideas in the comment section below, feel free to share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.