You never know if or when love might strike. As Americans’ life expectancy grows, there’s more time — and potentially more opportunities — to find a romantic partner.
In the final story in our series on aging, “In This Life,” one couple waited nearly a lifetime to find love.
As far as Doris Maitland was concerned, she was happy to be on her own. She’d tried marriage once before — devoted nearly three decades to a man who she says spent more time away than at home. Then one day he left for good.
Love was not something Doris felt compelled to try again.
“I was down on it. I had more things on my mind. I figured, that’s over with, now I can do the career thing, and I can make a life for me. And I was perfectly happy, perfectly content,” she says.
After her divorce, Doris was the happiest she’d been in a long time. Two decades later, in 2000, came her 50th high school reunion in Skowhegan, but as someone who looks ahead and never back, she says she had no interest in going. No matter how many phone calls she got from her former classmates.
“Finally, one of them said to me, ‘You know, it’s probably the last reunion we’ll have.’ So I said, ‘All right, I’ll buy a ticket.’ And I still had no interest in it, but it stopped everybody from calling me,” she says.
“I just wanted to go. I just felt that I should go. Period,” says Norm Blomquist.
Norm had only been to one other Skowhegan High School reunion, decades before. He wanted to see if his former classmate Doris was there. When she wasn’t, he left.
“I thought about her a lot of times,” he says.
Norm had been married too, for about 30 years. But the marriage was unhappy. After the divorce, he didn’t feel much better, except for when his mind wandered to Doris, the girl he used to meet at the water fountain after school as a teenager.
“Even in high school, you know it, and sometimes you just don’t do a thing about it,” he says.
After waiting 50 years, he figured it was worth a try. He drove to Maine all the way from his home in North Carolina. When he arrived, he stopped in Oakland, where Doris now lives, to make a long overdue phone call.
“I went to the police station and asked for her number. And where could I call, you know? They questioned me, ‘What do you want to see her for?’” he says. “Never seen me. So I got the number and I called her.”
“This phone rang, and somebody said, ‘This is Norm – Norman Blomquist.’ And I said, ‘Oh? Where are you,’ being polite. And he was down at the end of the road. And he said, ‘I thought I’d stop by.’ So what do you say?” she says with a giggle. “I said, ‘Sure, come on up.’ I was thinking, ‘Now how do I handle this one?’“
Doris remembered Norm and the water fountain. Once a year, when the Skowhegan High School newsletter arrived in the mail, she’d glance to see if his name was still listed.
When Norm showed up at her door, he convinced her to go to the reunion. A few days later, he arrived at the venue early, found a table, and waited.
“But I could see the door. So I knew when she drove in. And I wanted to meet her at the door, and I did,” he says.
They had a nice time, catching up with each other and old friends. When it was over, Doris drove herself home.
“I thought it was a great evening. That was all. I didn’t expect we’d be seeing each other again,” she says.
But the next day, Norm knocked on Doris’ door again. And this time, something started to take hold. After Norm returned to North Carolina, he called and wrote Doris letters almost every day.
“It was just a feeling that is — just like it’s brand new. Just like it’s brand new. It was super,” he says.
Doris felt it too. It was different than anything she had felt before.
“Yeah, it was. Oh, this is what I was supposed to feel like,” she says.
About six months later, Norm moved back to Maine and straight into Doris’s house. Four years later, when they were both 71 years old, they got married. It was the second time for each, but the first time for love.
“I don’t know that love changes. I think your look at it, your realistic view of it changes. Because you can tell this from that. You can feel the difference. And inside you know it. No question. You know it,” Norm says.
Looking back, Norm and Doris say they knew it years ago at the water fountain. But sometimes, Doris says, there are reasons to wait.
“Sometimes you can’t control your own purpose or why you’re here. And I figure, all right, so I was supposed to have had these lessons given to me earlier. And as I go through, I’ve learned the lessons, I hope,” she says.
This May, Doris and Norm Blomquist will celebrate their 13th anniversary. Life, Norm says, is entirely different now that he’s married to Doris.
“It’s bright and shiny. It was awful dull before,” he says.
Maine Public Radio’s series “In This Life” is made possible by a grant from the Doree Taylor Charitable Foundation.