I met Mrs. Antunes when I was 21; a junior at the University. She was a hardy, ninety year-old, midwestern gal, who spent the majority of her days alone, milling about her big, old house. She had placed an ad in the local newspaper requesting help with household chores, and, I had accepted the twenty-hour per week job. I soon realized that Mrs. Antunes needed little help with household chores; her home was immaculate. She did need companionship, however; a friend. And, although she was extremely religious and, conservative in all matters–while I considered myself the hip, young, liberal atheist–over the months, we became quite fond of one another.
We�d turn on her old transistor radio, and, listen to a religious radio program broadcast out of Chicago. We�d talk of her childhood in Kansas, or, of mine in Philadelphia. I�d laugh at her silly, Depression-era jokes; and cry when she spoke of her late husband and of her only child, who drowned in a nearby lake. We were friends.
One hot, July day, Mrs. Antunes and I stepped outside–and, next door was a gorgeous, shirtless man, swinging a hammer. He appeared to be building a new porch for the neighbors. My jaw dropped. This man was sexy! Then I remembered Mrs. Antunes–and, how surely she would disapprove of his shirtless, sweaty presentation. (She even discouraged me from wearing shorts �when not at the beach!�)
Mrs. Antunes was quiet for some time. And, then, suddenly, she exclaimed: �I�ve been thinking, Elizabeth� I should have experimented sexually when I was young and single. Perhaps you should.� My face reddened. This statement was so uncharacteristic; so NOT Mrs. Antunes.
The next day when I arrived, Mrs. Antunes smiled and said, �Steve�s having lunch with us.� Steve? I soon learned Steve was the shirtless man. Mrs. Antunes worked fast! The three of us continued to lunch together for weeks–talking and laughing–we were three friends now. One night in August, Mrs. Antunes telephoned. �Do you like Steve in a romantic way,� she asked, �because he likes you in a romantic way.� I admitted that, yes, I did. �Well, then don�t make plans for the weekend. You two are spending the weekend at a bed and breakfast in Mendocino–I understand it�s romantic. It�s my gift to you, Elizabeth, because I love you.�
Steve and I flew to California that weekend–and, yes, Mrs. Antunes, we experimented! But, the most romantic moment of my life was not that exciting weekend, but, rather Mrs. Antunes� phone call–and, her admission to me, her young friend, that she loved me–loved me so much, in fact, that she wanted me to live fully, in a manner the propriety of her day had not allowed.