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L.A. Affairs: I was a recent widow. Could my daughter’s guitar teacher change my tune?

I was at dinner in Los Feliz recently trying to encourage a couple I’ve been friends with for more than 20 years to come see my boyfriend’s band play the following weekend. “It’s so fun,” I said. “It’s at a bar in the Valley, but Luis gives it the same energy as if he’s playing the Forum. Plus, it’s a Friday night. You can sleep in on Saturday.” They nodded their heads in consideration, and then the husband asked a perfectly reasonable question. “What time does he start?”

“Around 9,” I said. “Ish.”

Their faces lighted up and their eyes got wide as if I had just delivered the funniest punchline they’d ever heard. “Nine o’clock?!” the wife asked. “At night?”

“Well,” I admitted, “9:15. The latest 9:30.”

Her husband laughed and said, “We’re usually in bed by then.”

The wife added, “But if he ever plays a daytime gig, we’d love to come.”

I’ve had the same conversation with a variety of friends for years, and they usually end the same way. The truth is, I get it. Because on the nights that my blues-playing, guitar-slinging boyfriend doesn’t have a gig, we’re usually in bed by 9:30 too.

Luis and I met when we were in our 40s. He was my daughter’s guitar teacher, although taking her to her lessons fell under the jurisdiction of my late husband, Joel. Luis and I had met only a handful of times. Although I found him attractive, we were not on each other’s radars until I was nearly a year into my widowhood. A friend had invited me to one of his gigs, and I went. We got to talking and saw each other a few times over the next several weeks.

What we thought might be a fling turned into a bona fide relationship. It’s now been almost 10 years, and we haven’t just grown together as a couple, we’ve grown … old. Or maybe just older. We’re still youthful, but I haven’t been carded in ages, and oftentimes we text each other to see if one of us has the reading glasses the other can’t seem to find.

We used to look forward to getting couples massages together. Now, we’re excited when our colonoscopies are the same week. We used to frequent a neighborhood Italian restaurant and drink old-fashioneds and vodka martinis with our clams linguine and eggplant parm. Now, we frequent the pharmacy to make sure I keep an eye on my cholesterol and he has enough of his blood pressure medication.

Same thing with my friends, many of whom I’ve known since we were in our 20s. Back then, we’d talk obsessively about our fledgling careers and the people we would end up marrying, and we’d wonder if we really could have it all. Now, we talk constantly about our hormones (or lack thereof), how we’re handling our aging parents and how “kids today” — even our own — are plagued with anxiety and depression. Again, we’re not old, per se, but we’re not young either. Unless we live well past the age of 110, we’re not even middle-aged. So that segment of our lives is actually far behind us.

Joel, who died unexpectedly at age 50, was middle-aged in his 20s. Of course, at the time, we had no idea that that was the case. We weren’t a couple yet. When Joel and I met, we worked at a record label on the Sunset Strip. Part of our job was to see up-and-coming and established bands, sometimes several in one night. It wasn’t out of the ordinary to see the Rave-Ups play at the Palomino in North Hollywood at 9 p.m. and then rush over the hill to end the evening with an 11 p.m. set by the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Hollywood Palladium. And that would be during the week. Neither of us would think twice about how late things got started or the distance we would travel. We loved seeing live music. It was fun. We were young.

It’s so cliché, but when I look at pictures of myself at that age, I think, “I was so cute. So open. So driven.” I had no idea what the future held: young widowhood, a major career change and love later in life with a man I’ll likely continue growing older with, a man who isn’t Joel.

Love with Luis has always been different. Maybe it’s because falling in love again, especially as a widow, was so unexpected. We had lived full lives by the time we got together. Although neither of us feels compelled to marry, we expect we’ll be grandparents together sometime in the future. That’s a thought that makes us smile.

All of this said, I’m convinced that playing music is what keeps Luis young. That, and his hair. He’s got a lot of it. Thick, wavy, even unruly at times. In our years together, it’s gotten more salt than pepper, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from asking if they could smell him. Yes, friends and strangers alike ask if they can get really close to him and take a whiff. We think this is strange. But he’s a charismatic and handsome musician, and this may just be par for the course.

When he’s onstage, singing with his band, jumping and kicking with his guitar strapped around his neck, it’s hard to believe he’s closer to 60 than 25. Maybe music is the fountain of youth. Or maybe it’s as simple as doing what you love. And I love being in the audience, watching him do what he loves. It’s something that makes me feel young too. Especially when it’s late on a Friday night, even if my friends have opted to stay home. They have no idea what they’re missing.

The author lives in Los Angeles and wrote the bestselling memoir “Widowish.” She is working on her second book, a middle-grade novel. She’s on Instagram: @melissagould_author

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $400 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.


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