Afterthought: She Had Me at Hello

Today’s Machining World Archives June 2010 Volume 06 Issue 05

As I write this column, my wife Risa and I are preparing to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. In the winter of 1968 we were two students at the University of Michigan who met at a big mixer that I didn’t even know was happening ‘til I heard the music at the Michigan Union where I had gone to play ping-pong.

I walked into the “meet market” event with my pimple rubber paddle in my corduroy jacket pocket, surveyed the girls and saw Risa, smiling and beautiful in the wonderfully short skirt she wore on a very cold night. I went over, asked her name and convinced her to leave the loud music so we could talk.I met Risa at a perfect moment in my life. I was 24 years old and a graduate student. When I was an undergrad I had lived in dread of being drafted and killed in Vietnam. I had friends who had died there. By the time I met Risa I had already volunteered for the National Guard, endured basic training and been activated for the Democratic Convention in Chicago. I felt liberated from the war and ready to live my life as a civilian. I was free and I was in a position to “receive.”

I believe we get windows in life when circumstances place us in a position to be open to people and possibilities. I was in that window when I met Risa. I was looking for love and I was in an emotional place to both give love and receive it without reservation.

I suspected I was falling in love with Risa the frst night we met. We had a bite to eat and I asked her to come to my apartment to watch TV. Risa was a 17-year-old freshman and her dormitory had a curfew. I promised her that I would drive her back before curfew. Unfortunately that plan failed because my Chevy Biscayne wouldn’t start on a deliciously cold night. We laughed about it. I called a taxi that thankfully took two hours to come—more time to connect. Finally, I rode the taxi with her to Cousins Hall, kissed her goodnight and foated back to my apartment at two in the morning.

I think Renee Zellweger’s wonderful line from the movie Jerry McGuire summed up how I felt, “You had me at hello.”I started talking about marriage after six weeks, which freaked Risa out because at 17 she had never dated anybody, was starting pre-med and was just getting used to living away from home.

Two months after we met, her parents Sol and Shirley Levine came up to Ann Arbor from Charlotte, North Carolina, to check me out. They were alarmed that Risa was out every night until midnight and they wanted to meet the mystery guy. They really liked me.I had short hair, which scored some points, and in the course of conversation I divulged that I performed the traditional Jewish prayer ritual of wrapping leather bindings on my arm before praying every morning. Risa told me later that she felt her parents “gave her away” after that frst encounter with me.

Early in our relationship I wanted Risa to know something about baseball. I informed her that Ted Williams was the last .400 hitter and it was important to me that she always remember that fact. It was a subconscious attempt to pull her into my world. To this day Risa can tell you Williams batted .406, even if she now ignores the Cubs.

After her freshman year I went back to Chicago to work with my father. I sent her love letters and tapes and we connected on weekends. Iwas nudging her to get married. She was hesitating. During a trip back home to Charlotte Shirley asked her what she was going to do. Risa told her she just wasn’t ready for marriage. Her Mom asked her the question that changed her life, “Can you imagine living your life without Lloyd?” Risa said she could not and her mother said, “then you should marry him,” and that sealed the deal.

Now it’s 40 years of marriage—three kids, our portion of death and sorrow shared and a love that gets deeper every week.

Lloyd Graff

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