My husband and I first met on a blind date at the end of final exams  in our Junior year of college.  It was the end of May 1966 and our first date was a dinner at Butler Hall, a  fairly formal restaurant for the Columbia University neighborhood.  It had white tablecloths with a single rose in a vase as the centerpiece.   We didn’t actually start dating until the fall of our senior year and then we became inseparable.

Sometimes he would wait for me after a class and we would go have coffee.  Although we didn’t live together, just about every weekday night we would have dinner together.  We spent most weekends together.  Although I lived in a dorm, he had an apartment, and so we had much more freedom than many other couples in 1966.

Wherever we walked on the campus, we held hands.  It was something we continued to do throughout our 41 years of marriage.

I’m living now in the same neighborhood around Columbia.  I see many couples in their 20’s walking around and holding hands.  I ache for the feeling of his larger hand enveloping mine.

I’m now 5 years into widowhood, and 2 and a half years living in this Columbia neighborhood, which everywhere contains a map of our college relationship.

I often think it’s surreal being here as someone much older than my 22 year old self.  It’s especially surreal seeing young couples, walking the same streets, sitting in local restaurants, holding hands.

The merging of the present and the past keeps my husband with me but when, occasionally,  I extend out my hand for his, it’s with the realization that he won’t be there to hold it.