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How I Met My Match

By Terri Elders
At 62 I didn’t expect to find love. But on New Year’s Eve l998, when online dating services were considered more risky than routine, I resolved to try Divorced, just returned from a decade overseas with Peace Corps, I was working in Little Rock, far from my California origins.

Dateless for eons, I pictured casual Saturday outings to view Renoirs at the Arts Center or to share fried chicken and a hike at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. I’d settle for companionship.

I chose the screen name “Dumpling,” and posted my online bio and personal preferences. I could review my matched profiles on the website, and the service would forward messages addressed to me.

Soon missives from prospects crowded my inbox. Sometimes I chuckled at the quirkiness of the computer matchmaker. For instance, one match, Bettor, lived 2,050 miles away.

A Kentucky widower invited me to raise four teenage grandkids, offering as incentive a new washing machine. A Wichita Falls adventurer suggested a rafting excursion on the notoriously challenging Cossatot River , as soon as he could convince his wife that he deserved a weekend away. Another man wrote that since I was Dumpling, I must be one enticing fat mama. I didn’t bother to respond.

I agreed to meet one local man for supper at Cajun’s Wharf. The riverside setting, though, triggered memories of the dishes his deceased wife prepared. Soon he was sobbing into his devilled crab as he recounted her success with halibut, trout and flounder. By the time he described her bouillabaisse, I had finished with my barbecued shrimp, and the date.

One day a friend inquired about Socialnet, so I showed her how it worked, pulling up my list of matches, headed for months by Bettor’s unopened profile. I clicked on his screen name.

“I’ve never written because he’s too far away,” I said. “And with a name like Bettor, he might be a gambler. But when you open a profile, you learn if you would be interested.”

He liked jazz, art, dogs, cooking, travel and sounded sane. “You know,” I said, “I’ve been to the ends of the earth with Peace Corps, so maybe I shouldn’t rule out somebody just a couple of thousand miles away.” I pounded out a quick paragraph to introduce myself. My friend eyed me. “What if he turns out to be The One?”

He responded immediately. “I think I’m in love,” he wrote, adding that he valued a coherent message. His user name reflected his vanity license plate, which amused friends in Reno, where he dealt poker at Circus Circus. Not a gambler, he was more interested in family, sending a link to his web page. I viewed a photo of him and his sons. All four were handsome, I replied, each one more than the next.

Cautiously, we built trust before sharing contact information. He had his own domain, Sunflower, which I thought romantic. I appreciated my friends’ warnings about ax murderers, but believed in Bettor’s sincerity. “I don’t even own a little hatchet,” he had assured me.

Each Sunday morning, home from his graveyard shift, he would phone. He posted jokes to start my day, and mailed gifts, a wooden car, a casino chip, framed photos. Then one day I opened a small box to find a ring with a diamond sunflower. It had belonged to his mother, he wrote.

In turn, I sent cards with sunflower motifs and a motion-activated potted sunflower that played “You Are My Sunshine,” the only song he knew the words to, aside from the theme from Paladin. We discussed how and where we could meet, convinced we were in love. “I’ve never had a doubt,” Bettor said.

I decided to attend my high school reunion in California and then visit my father’s widow in Napa . Bettor would drive from Reno to meet me, and we would tour the nearby wineries. When we paused for supper that first evening, the waiters all buzzed around after we described our long Internet romance. They produced a bottle of Chardonnay on the house, gazing at us with sappy smiles. We billed and cooed like aging lovebirds.

Weeks later I flew back to Reno for his son’s annual mystery party. I sported a feather boa and toted a stuffed wirehaired terrier, and Bettor looked dapper in his rented tuxedo, as we impersonated detectives Nick and Nora Charles from the Thin Man movies.

I returned for the holidays with a suitcase full of Christmas gifts and decorations, and Bettor provided a little tree. His son joined us for Christmas dinner and presented us with a mouse pad featuring us in our Thin Man costumes.

On New Year’s Eve afternoon he taught me some poker basics so that I could accompany him to work that night. Because of the Y2K fright, though, the card room crowd was sparser than expected and he got the night off. We rushed out to rent videos, grabbed a bottle of champagne and ordered a pizza.

At midnight we toasted the millennium and made a joint resolution to marry. On July 1, 2000, we wed at his son’s home in Reno. As a wedding gift, sent us a Waterford crystal photo frame. Our wedding photo sits on the top shelf of a china cabinet in our living room today.

We’ve cruised the Mediterranean, the Baltic, and the Alaska Inner Passage. We’ve hoisted steins in Munich at Oktoberfest. We’ve searched for Nessie in Inverness, and pub-crawled in Dublin . We garden, play a running gin game, watch Jeopardy, and spoil our two dogs and three cats. We’ve wandered those art galleries and picnicked on fried chicken, just as I had envisioned. Bettor saunters, rather than hikes. And I’ve never mastered Texas Hold ‘Em. Bettor still emails me those daily jokes.

We’ve survived surgeries, spats, falls and fractures. But opening Bettor’s profile and writing to him proved to be my best bet ever. He is, indeed, The One, my sunshine when days are gray…and I met my match on the Internet.