47 Years

By Lloyd Graff

Today is my 47th wedding anniversary. “So what?” you may say. But if you have some curiosity about the marriage of a blogging trader in old machinery I will tell you some stories.

I met my wife Risa (Levine) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She was a 17-year-old freshman at the University of Michigan and I was a grad student, majoring in staying out of Vietnam and Journalism. We met at a “mixer” at The Michigan Union on a Saturday night. I had gone there to play Ping-Pong, a sport I truly loved. What else would a 24-year-old guy just back from Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Army basic training and MOS training in stringing telephone wire on 50-foot poles for the Illinois National Guard, want to do on a Saturday night in January 1969.

Ping-Pong action had settled down around 8 p.m., and I heard the band playing in the giant ballroom, so I stuck my foam rubber paddle in my sport jacket and moseyed into the huge room to check out the girls.

There were at least 1000 people in the room, but I think God was smiling on a 6’ 3” Ping-Pong player wearing a tan corduroy jacket, and a southern girl with a Semitic face wearing the shortest skirt in the ballroom.

A little more background. When I was an undergraduate in Ann Arbor from 1962-1966 I became continually more obsessed with the War and the likelihood that I would die in the jungle like friends and acquaintances already had. Increasingly this view conflicted with my desire to have a long-term relationship with a woman. I graduated from the U of M and went to Northwestern Law School, primarily to keep my deferment from Vietnam. Law School was a bore for me and I did not like living at home again after the freedom I had in Ann Arbor. Also, at Michigan I was something of a celebrity because I had been the Sports Editor of the Michigan Daily (campus newspaper) and had a column that was widely read. I flunked Contracts at Northwestern and just knew that I was not destined to be a lawyer.

Professor Bill Porter who was the head of the Journalism Department at Michigan had told me before I graduated that if law school wasn’t “my thing” just call him and he would arrange for me to enroll in the masters program. I went back to Ann Arbor in September of 1967, left on New Year’s Day 1968 for Fort Jackson (the first day of the Viet Cong’s Tet Offensive) and came back again in September of 1968.

After Basic Training and returning to the campus I loved, I felt an enormous burden lifted from my psyche. I concluded that I was probably not going to get killed in Vietnam and I would start to live the rest of my life.

On that freezing night in January of 1969 I was in the right place to meet Risa Joy Levine of Charlotte, North Carolina, who very quickly became the love of my life.

I picked out Risa from all the girls in the ballroom and maneuvered my way toward her, not so easy with the Ping-Pong paddle in my pocket, and I introduced myself. I mentioned it was awfully noisy and asked Risa if we could go into the hall to talk. She said ok, and then we conversed for awhile and I asked her if we could go for a bite to eat. After the snack I asked if she would come to my apartment to watch TV. She came, met my roommate Grayle Howlett, and the three of us watched Elizabeth Taylor in Sweet Bird of Youth.

About 2 a.m. I volunteered to drive Risa back to her dormitory. Of course, my car wouldn’t start, so I called a cab, rode with her back to her dorm and then walked back in the cold wondering what had happened on the way to a night of Ping-Pong.

Lloyd and Risa Graff olive oil tasting in Tuscany, 2004

Risa and I went out virtually every night for the next six weeks. I quickly connected with her about baseball. Even though she was not a fan she was an attentive listener. In the course of one conversation I mentioned that Ted Williams was the last .400 hitter and had batted .406 in 1941. I would occasionally ask her about “Teddy Baseball” and she would immediately say, “batted .406 in 1941” in a jocular way. I know if I asked Risa today who the last .400 hitter was she’d immediately say Ted Williams .406 in 1941. It was one of our code words that spelled love and connection.

I probably knew in my heart of hearts that I wanted to marry Risa after the first night, but we did not start to talk of marriage for six weeks.

After all, she was 17 years old when we met and had virtually never been out on a date, and had just started college in Pre Med. But I was stupidly sure of myself and my feelings. I could see the future, at least I thought so, and Risa was my future.

Her parents came up to Ann Arbor after six weeks of calling her and never finding her in her room in the dorm. They were enormously relieved to see I wasn’t a bearded, pot smoking hippie. In fact, I was a lot like them. When Risa’s father, Sol, found out that every morning I took 15 to 20 minutes to Daven (a recitation of Jewish morning prayers), something that he also did, he was ready to give Risa away. Her Mom Shirley, seemed enamored of me from the moment we met, so all I had to do was convince Risa that she should give up her Ann Arbor adolescence and accept fate, and that we were each other’s destiny.

Regarding Risa, I have always been a hopeless romantic. We got married May 24, 1970. It took my parents a while to totally accept Risa, because they thought nobody was quite good enough for Lloyd, but they did ultimately embrace her, because they understood how completely in love I was and how devoted I was to her.

Today, our 47th wedding anniversary, I still think she is my perfect partner and will always be the love of my life.

And yes, just ask her who the last .400 hitter was in the Major Leagues. She will answer with a big smile.

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9 thoughts on “47 Years

  1. Mindy Mikami

    Lloyd,

    What a lovely story. My husband and I will celebrate 38 in August.

    I like to tell people that I always trust my first instinct about people… it’s NEVER wrong. Well… almost never.

    My infallible instinct has been wrong exactly TWO times. The first time was when I met a girl in the 4th grade who would go on to be my best friend all the way through high school. Her first day as a transfer student, I hated her!

    My instinct would be wrong one more time. It was when my 16-year-old self met my 17-year-old husband whileI was an exchange student in Japan. I thought he was a jerk and for the longest time wouldn’t even give him the time of day. Good thing he was persistent (just like you), because we are still together.

    Wishing you and Risa many more years of happiness.

    Mindy

     
  2. rick

    Baseball is a real cerebral game and is all about the stats and numbers.
    Those who did not grow up with the game will never get it.

    Lloyd, you sound like a real Mensch!
    And it seems you & the Bride are hitting a thousand!

    Mazel tov!

    May you be blessed with many, many more wonderful years together!!!

     
  3. Terry

    Lloyd,
    Great story and thank you for sharing, just one comment though, you should have started with ” Once Upon a Time”
    Terry

     
  4. David

    A very touching story of how you and Risa found eachother, but I have to make one correction. Ted Williams’ nickname was Teddy Ballgame, not Teddy Baseball. You got the year and the average right, though. 😉
    Happy Anniversary!

     
  5. Jim Graff

    Congratulations Lloyd and Risa.
    Seems like yesterday meeting Risa for the first time at U of M for an Aretha Franklin concert.
    Enjoy your aniversary.

    Love,
    Jim,Ronni,Amy,Cheryl & Lee Graff

     
  6. Frank Gibbons

    Congratulations to you Lloyd & Risa on 47 magical years togeather.
    I will celebrate 50 years in 3 weeks.

     
  7. Noah Graff

    Congratulations parents! I feel very lucky to have experienced 36.5 years of it. I’m thankful to say that it’s always seemed pretty great. You have always seemed like you were happy and meant to be together.

    My God… Even if I got married tomorrow (which I’m not planning to) I would be 84 by the time I matched that 47!

     

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