Tiny Love Stories: ‘Be Grateful We Have Different Last Names’

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When I was a newlywed nearly 30 years ago, my mother-in-law would introduce me as “Debby, Dave’s wife; she didn’t take his name.” It was true, but it rankled me because she was otherwise very gracious and accepting. So I made light of it. “You should be grateful we have different last names,” I’d say whenever I published revealing humor essays about my life with her son. Pat has dementia now. She calls me her daughter, sister or friend. None are true. All are loving. Proof yet again that labels and names mean little in love. — Debby Waldman

“Can I still see my girlfriend?” I asked the doctor on our virtual visit. “Do you live together?” she said. We had been together for only six months and lived apart. “Then, no,” she said. Darn. In March 2020, nobody knew anything about this virus. We followed the doctor’s orders. I isolated for five weeks, never leaving my apartment and doing my laundry in my bathtub. One day, Lisa gathered the courage to bike to my apartment, stopping outside my Brooklyn window. I looked down at my distant lover and felt a flutter of forever. — Sydra Mallery

My father, Henry, from Kauai, Hawaii, and my mother, Thordis, from the West Side of Chicago, met at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, at the popular cafeteria in the student union. My father, just back from Europe, where he served in World War II, came in with his buddies. He saw my mother sitting with her friends. Walking over to her, he said, “Stand up, and if you’re not taller than I am, I’ll take you to a movie.” She stood; she was a half-inch taller. They went to the movie anyway, and that’s how I came to be. — Lanning Lee

Our son was 12 and our daughter 15 the summer my husband died from a stroke. Lena, our girl, labored through her grief. Riordan, our boy, lived in a state of unformed, uncomprehending fury, demanding for weeks after his father was gone that I call the hospital and tell the doctors to keep trying. There were times I knew my job was to absorb all the anger and injustice of this great loss. Other times, I would stumble into bed, overcome with anguish for all of us. But suddenly Riordan would be close beside me, saying “Mom, breathe.” — Heidi Hovland