In August 2020, I came home to $40k of water damage to my condominium caused by a pinhole leak from my 88-year-old neighbor Marcia’s adjacent condo. As I assessed the damage, saved my cat from drowning in the puddles in my living and dining rooms, and watched the light fixtures in my bathroom slide down the wall, I couldn’t know that I was about to meet the love of my life.
I was nearing the end of a long-term relationship and facing a health crisis for the second time in two-and-half years. When Marcia invited me over one fall evening for a glass of wine soon after the deluge, I almost didn’t go. I was depressed and frightened and scheduled for a core-needle biopsy the following morning. At the last minute, she called to tell me that her son was bringing Thai food and asked if I’d like to join them for dinner. I pulled myself together and reluctantly made my way next door.
I arrived first and was standing in her kitchen when I heard a very friendly “hello” coming from her downstairs entry. It was the height of the pandemic, and everyone was wearing masks. However, as he walked up the stairs toward me, I could tell Robby was smiling through his. I was immediately drawn to him. He had amazing blue eyes and a kind, sincere demeanor.
Our quick dinner turned into a long evening of fun and laughter. I didn’t want it to end. I suggested giving Robby my phone number in case he had trouble “reaching his mother.” Robby texted me before arriving home that evening, and after several days of communicating non-stop, we made a date for the following weekend. Robby, who was also nearing the end of a long-term relationship, immediately ended his before our second date. Mine ended two days later.
After my core needle biopsy, I was given the bad news that I would need breast surgery to remove a small lump. I was 49 years old, the same age as my father had been when he passed away from cancer. I was positive bad things were ahead. I immediately told Robby I would understand if he did not want to get involved with me.
Six weeks later, I turned 50. When a flower delivery arrived at my door in a blue vase, my favorite color, I knew he was special because he listened to me and remembered I love blue. I knew it was beshert when he was with me throughout my healing process and by my side for every visit to Sloan Kettering in New York.
The lump was benign. We are now engaged to be married.
Deborah Halpern is a native New Yorker who relocated to Maryland in 2014. She has an MSW from Columbia University. Currently a project manager for a federal consulting company, she previously worked for Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. She also chairs an Alzheimer’s Association Longest Day Fundraising committee and serves as an Alzheimer’s Ambassador to U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md). Her beshert is Robby Fleischmann, who on February 19, 2023, recreated their first date—a Thai food dinner—and proposed. They’re planning a December wedding.