How we met: ‘I was impressed with how relaxed she was using curse words’

In the summer of 2012, Wendy was making her annual trip from her home in Austin, Texas, to Phoenicia, New York, where she owned a small cabin outside the town. “I inherited it from my great-grandmother and have been going there since I was a kid,” she says. “I love eating and drinking in the local restaurants there.”

That year, she decided she would like to cycle to and from the town centre during her stay. “I didn’t have a bike, so my friend suggested I rent one in town. The shop was tucked away and I didn’t even know it existed.” She walked in and met the owner, Mike, who also ran the shop as a hangout space. “I’d lived off the grid most of my life so it was nice having a social place to be with people,” he says. He found her a bike to rent, but was worried she wouldn’t make it home. “It’s very hilly and I wasn’t used to cycling,” she says. “He gave me his number in case I needed him to pick me up.” Wendy made it home safely, then called Mike to let him know.

A few days later, he asked if she would like to join him and a friend on a bike trail across the Hudson. “I really liked the conversations we had and I was impressed with how relaxed she was using curse words, too,” he laughs. After the bike ride, Wendy invited them both to her cabin, to sit on the front porch with a drink. “It’s one of the most relaxing places in the world,” says Wendy. “Mike really liked it there and we spent hours chatting.”

She tried to return the bike, but Mike insisted she keep it a little longer. In July, she had to travel back to Texas for an event. “I’d had the bike so long by that point, I thought I’d run up a big bill,” she says. “But Mike didn’t charge me. He just asked if he could visit my cabin and sit outside the front porch while I was away.”

When she returned a few weeks later, she considered going to see him, but didn’t want to seem too forward. “My neighbour told me his face lit up when they said to him that I was coming back. It was like high school for seniors,” laughs Wendy.

After meeting up again at a local music event, they began going for regular bike trips together, but it wasn’t until September that things became romantic. “It was also complicated by the fact I was going back to Texas for the winter.” Still unsure if their relationship would prove to be more than a summer fling, Wendy returned home. But they stayed in touch and she visited for a week in October. At Christmas, she stayed for a month but Mike, who had already been suffering from hepatitis C, had some more bad news about his health. “I had been waiting for a biopsy for suspected liver cancer,” he says. “When the results came through and the cancer was confirmed, I had to decide whether to go on the transplant list.”

Wendy and Mike
Wendy says she appreciates Mike’s helpful nature. Photograph: Image supplied by reader

Wendy told him she’d be there for him, no matter what he decided. “That’s when I knew she was a keeper,” he says. Over the next three years, he went through chemotherapy and treatment for his hepatitis, before deciding to go ahead with the transplant in 2016. Since his recovery, the couple have divided their time between Phoenicia and Austin. Mike has one son from a previous relationship and six grandchildren, while Wendy has three stepchildren from a previous marriage and 12 stepgrandchildren.

“I’ve lived alone most of my life but now I love having Wendy to help me make decisions,” says Mike. “We share similar values and it’s reassuring being with someone who cares so much about you.”

Wendy appreciates his calm nature. “He takes care of a lot of things for me without me even asking. I have a live-in Mr Fix-It,” she says. “When you meet someone in your 60s you don’t meet each other’s parents or early friends. A lot of our relationship has been spent catching up on past history. Whenever old songs come on the radio, we tell each other where we were when we first heard them. We have a great time together.”

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