WESLEY CHAPEL — When our two Valentines Frank and Alice Turturro say they've known each other from Day One, they mean exactly Day One: July 1, 1944, the day both sucked in their first breaths in a hospital in Brooklyn. • Except for two slight interruptions, they've been a pair all their 65 years. They've nursed, potty-trained and see-sawed together. They've courted, married, raised two kids, got past life's heartaches together. Now in retirement in Wesley Chapel, they're Wii bowling together. • On this Valentine's Day, they make a solid case that their love was meant to be. • But St. Valentine had help. Three times, Frank and Alice might have gone separate ways. Three times, Frank's mother spoke up. • Even when her son hollered: • "No, Mom, no!"
The first time Frank's mom spoke up was Day One. She was in labor at Bushwick Hospital in Brooklyn. She heard another mother in labor screaming.
"I know that voice," she said.
It belonged to a woman she had met at the obstetrician's office. They lived only nine blocks apart. The woman was Alice's mom. Even though the poor woman was screaming from contractions, it was nice to hear a familiar voice. Frank's mom asked to share a room with her.
Frank was born first. Alice was born six hours later.
Their mothers were roommates for a week.
As Frank and Alice grew, their moms met at a playground midway between their homes. They crocheted on a park bench while their kids played on the swing and the see-saw. Old snapshots show two blond toddlers posing side-by-side, the boy in shorts, the girl in a sundress and pigtails. They looked almost like twins.
But when Alice turned 8, her family moved to Queens. Maybe she and Frank weren't meant to be. She didn't see him again for eight years.
Then, Frank's mom called Alice's mom.
"Frank got his driver's license," she said. "We'd like to come see you."
That led to dating. They went to a New Year's Eve party together. Alice thought Frank was "cute." Frank thought Alice was cute, too, but at 16, he "didn't want to get serious."
The dates tailed off.
Frank went on to join the Air Force and get posted in Asia. He didn't write.
He didn't get out of the service until he was 24.
By now, the whole meant-to-be thing looked like a bust.
• • •
Then, for the third time, Frank's mom spoke up.
She called Alice.
"How's your love life?" (Frank's mom was not discreet.)
"Are you single, married or divorced?"
Frank stood in the next room, waving his arms. He was a 24-year-old military veteran, a world traveler, and his mom was still getting him dates.
"No, Mom, no! I'm not that ugly!"
He and Alice went out that Saturday night. They saw Gone with the Wind. They didn't focus on the movie.
This time, Frank was serious. He asked Alice out every weekend for three straight months and then he proposed. They married on May 9, 1970.
They raised two children, Christina and Michael, and endured two miscarriages. From time to time, they butted heads. After all, they're Brooklynites. They both could yell.
But they never did what half of all married people do — they never separated.
"People don't give marriage a chance," Alice said. "They don't work at it."
A few years ago, the sinking economy cost Frank his computer job. Alice had to give up her beloved tennis because of back surgeries. But they lead busy lives. He packs gift boxes for Support Our Troops. She helps feed the homeless at St. Vincent DePaul's.
Anyone can see how close they are. They finish each other's sentences. When they sit, she places her hand on his knee. They've framed the snapshots of themselves playing together as toddlers.
They never forget each other's birthday.
John Barry can be reached at 727-892-2258 or firstname.lastname@example.org.