Sex & Relationships

An Octogenarian’s Unexpected Love Story


Here’s a lovely story from our archives.

“There are times when just a few minutes of an ordinary day mean a huge amount. I don’t know whether Howie and I will have six months together or whether we’ll have 10 years together, but when you think of all these minutes that are going to mean a lot, we have a lot of time.”

Cynthia Riggs was 80 and Howard Attebery was 90 when they reconnected after 62 years.

The two had been close when she was 18 and he was “an older gentleman”of 28—both were working sorting plankton in a research lab. She spent four months at the summer job, and that was that—until Cynthia, who had gone back to school in later life to study creative writing and become a writer of murder mysteries, thought about Howie out of the blue and decided to Google him.

Cynthia told the story of what happened next at a Moth storytelling slam a few years ago in Martha’s Vineyard, where she lives and works. (Listen to a recording here.) Her story unfolds over email and ends with a ticket to California to visit Howie.

The followup interview below delves into Cynthia’s experience traveling to meet the man she hadn’t seen in more than six decades, her self-consciousness in the face of a meeting with someone who last saw her when she was an 18-year-old in a very different body than the one she inhabited now, and her feelings about her impending marriage to a 90-year-old who knew and loved her in a way she had never expected to be known and loved.

“I had a pretty stormy marriage and I was divorced after 25 years, and I swore I would never, never, never, never fall in love; never, never, never get married, and here I am. He won me over…. He really is a soulmate.”

It’s more than a love story between two people who might have given up on love. It’s a story of openness to brand new possibilities at a time in life when we’re expected to be taking stock of the past. It’s a story of hope that infected a whole community. And it’s a story about the power of Google search to make reconnect us.

“My feeling about the whole thing is, it really never is too late. You never know what’s coming next. Keep looking out for something wonderful to happen, ’cause it will.”


And here’s Cynthia’s update at another Moth event, one year later:

Howie passed away on February 1, 2017.


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