Six months later, Alberto, Tammy’s widower, asked whether he could introduce me to his new girlfriend. He seemed eager to share the source of his newfound happiness with me, and I could sense his excitement. I said I’d be happy to meet her, although it felt as if Tammy had just told me about her diagnosis.
When Tammy got sick, our group of girlfriends — Team Tammy — huddled around her family in a protective ring. When she died, she left behind a husband and two teenage sons, and Team Tammy disbursed back to our lives, which were supposed to feel normal again.
At the funeral, Alberto gave the most passionate and articulate eulogy I had ever witnessed. I was dumbfounded. It was Tammy who had been my close friend, but that day I discovered the man with whom my friend had fallen in love. After the burial, we all collapsed. Numb, we returned home and were supposed to continue on in life. But we knew it would never be the same. The thought of Alberto going to bed alone, yearning for the loving embrace of his wife, was devastating.
But when Team Tammy reunited three months after Tammy’s death, there were mixed feelings about the prospect of Alberto dating again. He had told one of Tammy’s girlfriends that he had created a profile on a dating Web site, and this made some of the women uncomfortable. Comments such as “they say that it’s best to wait a year” flew across the table.
Listening, I couldn’t help but think that Alberto might have been mourning Tammy already for a long time, longer than we could imagine. It was possible his grief set in the very day they realized the severity of her diagnosis. A doctor himself, he is likely to have had no illusions about her chances at survival, although he never gave up hope while she was sick.
Who knows what conversations he and Tammy had about her wishes for him. The girlfriends knew she did not want him to be alone.
“He can do what he wants,” one voice cut in, “but I am not ready to meet any girlfriend. It’s just too soon.” I pointed out that there are different ways of mourning and that “too soon” for some might be “not soon enough” for others. Who were we to judge the right time for this man?
One afternoon, five months after Tammy died, Alberto came over and shared some of his online dating experiences. “I need company,” he told me, “I am lonely.” One woman, named Lisa, stood out; something felt right between them, and they were exploring moving forward. Alberto had taken up swimming and slowly became energized again, looking more dapper each time I saw him. I am guessing this happened around the same time that he starting online dating, excited by the prospect of becoming closer to a woman.
When Lisa walked into my living room, Alberto smiled and introduced her. She had a warm, confident handshake and bright eyes. I was relieved to see a mature woman in what I guessed was her late 40s. We lingered for a while, sipping wine and chatting, in what felt like a gentle, tentative way of exploring a new acquaintance. Alberto looked happy as he discreetly held her hand in his lap.
Lisa told us that although Alberto’s online profile described an intriguing man in his mid-50s with impressive credentials, that wasn’t what convinced her to give him a chance. In addition to a current photo, he posted a black-and-white one from his childhood. She felt drawn to discover the man that boy had turned into. This photo was the last entry by Tammy on her Facebook page, posted on Alberto’s birthday. Her caption read: “The love of my life. Still adorable.” He brought a small piece of Tammy’s loving words with him as he embarked on the new chapter that he knew she would want him to create.
As I fell asleep that night after meeting Lisa, I couldn’t help but think about Tammy. She would have been pleased to know that this kind and smart woman is offering companionship, romance and hope to the brilliant and devoted man who was the love of her life.
Who am I to say it is too soon?