When Ceil met Walter - The Saga
It was Friday night, September 18, 1987. My dear friend, Bea Lerner, was having a singles house party. I was one of the people she counted on to help with the cooking and take money at the front door. Late in the evening I got thirsty, so I went to get a seltzer and found a stranger behind the bar. “Where’s the bartender,” I asked. “He disappeared. Someone needs to be here to make sure no one gets drunk, so I took over,” responded this guy named Walter. I’m not sure how he got in, but I didn’t check him in because I certainly would have remembered such a handsome man.
He poured my seltzer and we chatted across the bar. As we went through the usual new acquaintance questions, it was amazing how much we had in common. I am Jewish; he was Jewish. I kept Kosher; he kept Kosher. I attended services every week; he attended services every week. The conversation continued. . .
Him: "Where do you go to services?" Me: "A little Orthodox synagogue in Oceanisde."
Him: "Orthodox? Why?" Me: "It reminds me of the synagogue I grew up in."
Him: "Where’s that?" Me: “A small town in Jersey.”
Him: “Where?” Me: “You’d never know it.”
Him: “Come on, give it a try.” Me: “Englishtown.”
Him: “Englishtown? I know it well. From the time I was eight, my father and I went to the flea market there each weekend for 10 years. In fact, we stayed with our cousins, the Gelbers, in Englishtown.”
Me (to myself): "Now that's some coincidence!"
About three hours later, I thought it was time for us to let Bea go to sleep, so we left. He asked for my number. Yay! But three weeks later he still hadn’t called. Even though it was time for the Jewish holidays, I was still annoyed. Then came the night Bea called to tell me she was having another party. She needed a man to sit at the door and asked if I wanted her to call Walter. I told her absolutely NO! If he’s going to call, he will call. If he doesn’t, so be it. She called him anyway, he was there that night, and the Ceil/Walter saga began.
It took me 10 years to get him to marry me. Poor guy, his ex-wife had cheated on him and he was seriously gun shy. It happened on a Friday toward the end of June. Robert was going in for a bone marrow transplant in a couple of weeks. I told Walter that I wanted to get married before then because I wanted Robert at our wedding and there was no guarantee he would survive the procedure.
Immediately, Walter said yes. I just didn’t believe him until the following Monday, when his mother called me crying. She was so happy to know we were getting married. And, so, on July 28, 1996, Walter and I married on the deck we had built for the occasion in the back yard.
Two weeks later Robert went into the hospital. They tested his siblings for a match and Adam was closest. The first bone marrow transplant didn’t work. The second didn’t work. Finally, we were told that a stem cell transplant would only have a two-to-five percent chance of success and we knew there was no hope.
Our almost 24 year marriage had its ups and downs. Walter had many medical issues that we dealt with, but he was a fighter and made it through several close calls, including sepsis. In his last battle, COVID-19 was stronger than he was, and he left me June 27, 2020. Walter was my knight in shining armor, my rock, my best cheerleader, my protector, my everything. And so, I dedicate this mammoth undertaking to his memory and in honor of the 50th anniversary of Robert’s birth and the 25 years he’s been gone.