Pop Morey was gone, but there was little doubt he approved of the girl across the table.
- Posted on Jun 24, 2013
It was a fifty-dollar bill. Ulysses S. Grant on the front, “In God We Trust” on the back. As someone only a few years removed from college, I needed every buck I could get. But the bill remained folded in my wallet for months, untouched. Its worth was beyond monetary.
“This is too much, Pop,” I’d said to Papa Morey, my grandfather, when he gave it to me. I was visiting him in New Jersey. Every weekend since Nana Rita passed away, a year earlier, I took the ferry across the Hudson from New York City to see him.
We’d go out for breakfast or watch a Yankees game on TV. And talk, mostly about love. I rarely mentioned girls to my parents (I didn’t want Mom planning any weddings prematurely), but Pop had just lost his one and only. Telling him about a girl I’d met lit up his face with joy.
“Is she Jewish?” he’d want to know. As an American Jew who’d helped liberate Holocaust survivors during World War II, that was important to him. “Is she pretty?” he always asked—that was equally important. “Smart? Funny?” came after that. And of course, was she a Yankees fan?
Pop had given me money before when I left to go home, but usually it was just cab fare. “I want you to use this to take out a girl,” he said. “Not just any girl, a special girl. The one you’re going to marry.”
Who knew when I’d meet that girl? How would I know she was the right one?
A few weeks later, Pop suffered a stroke. He held on long enough to say goodbye to us, but he was ready. He was going to see Nana.
The next months were tough. When I did start dating again, it was with a heavy heart. Pop will never get to meet this girl. I went out, but didn’t feel any sparks. My aunt suggested a blind date with a girl she thought would be perfect for me, so I gave her a call.
“Um, I’ve been in a serious relationship for a year,” she said. Yikes. So when my roommate’s girlfriend wanted to set me up with a friend of hers, I refused. I’d had enough embarrassment.
Then one Saturday morning, my roommate and I decided to get some fresh air. On the street, we bumped into his girlfriend...and her friend. My roommate swore it was a chance encounter. I wouldn’t have been mad even if they had orchestrated it.
The four of us went for chips and salsa, but it felt like it was only the two of us. She’d just returned from 10 months’ working with disadvantaged communities in Israel. We talked about our families, keeping kosher when our friends didn’t and, most important, the Yankees.
“It’s a good thing you’re a fan or else I couldn’t talk to you,” she joked.
For our first real date, I picked an Italian restaurant in my neighborhood. I’d never been there, but it had little candlelit tables and a garden in back. The night went perfectly, from the way she laughed at my lame jokes to the way she picked gnocchi off my plate as if we’d been together for years.
The staff even gave us a free dessert—crème brûlée, which had been Nana Rita’s favorite.
Finally the bill came. “Cash only.” Uh-oh. I opened my wallet. Just credit cards...and the fifty-dollar bill. The one intended for the girl I would marry.
I looked across the table, and I was struck with an overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t just run out to the ATM. I didn’t know what the future held for us, but I’d never felt as sure of anything as I did right then.
I took the fifty out and laid it in the check holder. It exactly covered our meal, including the tip. The server came to take it away. And it was gone.
Three years later, I stood under the chuppah in my tux on my wedding day, watching that Jewish, beautiful, smart, funny girl walk up the aisle, the very girl my Pop knew I was destined to marry.
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