He lived a street away from me, and aged 68, he’d just had a knee replacement.
I couldn’t let him lug his walker onto the bus!
‘I’ll give you a lift,’ I smiled.
He’s pretty handsome for an old fella, I thought.
Though, with me being 28, he was 40 years my senior!
Nev knew I’d recently lost my lovely dad Allan to a heart attack, so he asked how me and my mum Hazel, 63, were coping.
We missed Dad dearly – and without him, the yard work had piled up.
‘I’ll pop around tomorrow to give you a hand,’ Nev said.
The next morning he was there.
Every day, he kept coming back and he wouldn’t accept a cent.
I wasn’t working due to an injury, so I helped too.
Chatting while painting and weeding, we discovered we both loved bands the Bee Gees and Nickelback, and adored wildlife.
One day Nev sweetly carved me a tiny turtle from jade.
After spending every day together for about a month, I felt sad when the sun went down and Nev went home.
If I go to bed early, I’ll wake up quicker and he’ll be back, I’d think.
Was I developing feelings for Nev?
He’s older than my mum! I thought.
It seemed like he was making excuses for us to spend more alone time together too. We were driving to Bunnings daily to get extra nails and screws!
About two months into our reno, we were having coffee in the Bunnings’ cafe.
Nervous and quiet, Nev just wasn’t himself.
‘I’ve got a mate who has feelings for someone much younger than him,’ he said eventually. ‘He doesn’t know if he should tell them...’
Butterflies fluttered in my stomach as I took a punt.
‘You’re talking about me and you, aren’t you?’ I said.
‘Yeah,’ Nev admitted.
‘I’ve thought about it myself, actually,’ I said, reaching for his hand.
I felt like a giggly schoolgirl.
Not ready to tell Mum yet, a couple of days later we drove to another hardware store an hour away so we could be alone for longer.
Sharing our first kiss, it was electric.
Neither of us had been in love before, but there was no mistaking our connection.
Within a few days I’d asked Nev to move in with me and Mum.
‘Wait out in the shed while I tell her,’ I told him.
Confessing that we’d been sneaking around, and now I wanted Nev to be our roommate, I was nervous.
‘Are you happy with him?’ Mum asked.
‘Very,’ I said.
‘Call him in,’ she smiled.
Nev was worried, but he needn’t have been, as Mum gave him a big hug.
Moving in that very night, we ordered pizza and ate as a family!
Nev and Mum got on like a house on fire – she particularly loved that my boyfriend was a whiz in the kitchen.
In our tiny town though, tongues started wagging.
On the grapevine, I heard that I must be a gold digger.
But Nev was on a disability pension!
‘How are you coping with Rach and Nev being a couple?’ a lady asked Mum at the letterbox one day.
‘I do what everybody else should be doing – I mind my own business,’ Mum retorted.
Our family and friends were happy for us, and we were ecstatic - that’s all that mattered.
Every day with Nev was an adventure.
We both loved fishing and swimming. And sometimes, when it rained, Nev would grab my hand and we’d run outside and dance!
‘Come on, Sparrow,’ he’d grin, nicknaming me after the birds I loved.
Young at heart, Nev would play pranks on me too.
Once, he cracked an egg on my head.
‘Go and have a hot shower,’ he said, as we laughed hysterically.
I did – and ended up with scrambled eggs in my hair!
But I got him back when I shaved off half his silver mo in his sleep!
Last November, Nev took me for a date on a boat. By now, we’d been a couple for more than four years.
After our meal, there was karaoke.
‘I’ve already got my first volunteer – Neville up you come!’ the emcee crooned.
‘He needs a back-up musician!’ she added, gesturing me up to the stage.
As I grabbed a maraca, the song ‘I do’ by Morgan Evans began. Turning around, I saw Nev was down on one knee with a diamond ring.
‘Marry me?’ he smiled.
When I said yes, the other diners went wild.
With Nev now 73, we want to say ‘I do’ as soon as we can. We’ve been asking people to generously donate a venue, flowers, anything, to help us get our special day.
Sadly, at Nev’s age, we won’t get a lifetime together.
‘That worries the hell out of me... when you’re gone,’ I’ve told Nev.
Still, we’d rather quality than quantity.
If I fell pregnant, we’d be ecstatic, but I know it’s unlikely – and I’ve made my peace with it. Nev’s worth it.
When we’re at the shops and people gawk, Nev coos, ‘Come on granddaughter, give us a kiss’.
Our time together is precious and we won’t waste a single second worrying what anyone thinks. ●
To help Rach and Nev, email firstname.lastname@example.org