The Way to a Woman's Heart

He didn’t have the courage to ask her out, but he had another plan, a culinary approach.

Posted in , Jan 16, 2014

Leon Burns with his wife, Julie, and a jar of his special granola

You might think a judge wouldn’t be scared of anything. I’ve sat on the criminal court bench for 37 years. I’ve had to restore order in my courtroom after people on opposing sides of a case went after each other.

I’ve had defendants so angry at me on hearing the sentence that they threatened me with bodily harm. I’ve had to put away violent criminals. And you’re right, none of that scared me. But the idea of dating at the age of 66? That made me tremble in my boots.

When I got married I thought Ann and I would be together forever. We had two beautiful daughters and enjoyed more than 30 years as husband and wife. But then Ann died of brain cancer. I felt like the bottom had fallen out of my world.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t take care of myself. I could cook, mop a floor and do laundry–well enough to get by, anyway. What really got to me was the loneliness.

After I’d been on my own for a few years I couldn’t take it anymore. I considered dating. But who? And how? There were plenty of single women around my age here in town–some had even invited me to movies or concerts. I just didn’t feel that spark with any of them.

Then one evening I was in the produce aisle of the grocery store when I noticed Julie Lane picking through the apple bin. We went to the same church and our children were the same ages, so we’d crossed paths many times. I guess you could say we were friendly, but we weren’t really friends.

I knew that Julie’s husband, like Ann, had died of brain cancer a few years back.

“Hi, there,” I said, putting down a head of lettuce and pushing my cart over to her. “How have you been getting along?”

“Hey, Leon,” she said, flashing me a sweet smile. “I’m doing okay. But, well, you’s pretty lonely on your own.”

Boy, did I. Julie and I talked for a long while–catching up on what was going on at church, with our kids and other parts of our lives. She was smart, interesting and pretty. Very pretty.

So I asked her out then and there, right? Wrong. I walked out of that store with my groceries, kicking my cowardly self all the way to the car.

About a month later, my mother passed away and Julie sent a sympathy note. I wrote her a thank-you. Then my birthday rolled around. Guess who sent me a funny card? “I remember you mentioning that you have a July birthday,” Julie wrote.

“I haven’t smiled like that in ages,” I replied, by regular mail. In this age of text messages and e-mail, we became old-timey pen pals. With every piece of correspondence our words grew a little bit bolder, a little more flirtatious.

Still, I couldn’t summon up the nerve to just come right out and ask her on a date.

Lord, help me out here, I prayed one lonely Friday night. How do I win Julie’s heart?

The next morning I woke up thinking about granola. My famous homemade granola. Everyone loved it. Maybe Julie would too.

I took out my largest mixing bowl and poured in oats and a bunch of sunflower kernels. Then I stirred in vegetable oil, molasses and vanilla (it adds just the right hint of sweetness). I spread the mixture out in a big roasting pan and slid it into the oven. I checked on it a few times, stirring while it baked.

I don’t know, Lord, could this really be the answer?

The timer dinged. I pulled the granola out of the oven and carefully mixed in some raisins and toasted almonds and let it all cool. Then I poured it in a plastic ziplock bag and attached a note: “From Your Secret Admirer.”

I left the bag in Julie’s mailbox. She knew what my handwriting looked like. I couldn’t wait to hear what she thought.

Julie’s next letter came. No mention of the granola.

So I left another bag, bearing the same note, on the bench beside her front door.


I had to quit acting like a nervous, silly teenager. Time to act decisively, like, well, a judge.

I made another batch of granola, filled a bag with it and drove to Julie’s. Only I didn’t put the bag in the mailbox or on the porch bench. Nope. This time I walked straight up to her front door and knocked.

Julie opened the door. I didn’t say a word. Just handed her the granola and kissed her. Exactly what she was waiting for.

The rest, as they say, is history. This spring will be our fifth anniversary. I think I’ll start our celebration by bringing Julie breakfast in bed, featuring my famous granola, of course.

Try Leon's granola for yourself!


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