Barry and I met at a Halloween party when we were 13 years old. Neither of us liked our dates, so we chatted outside. We didn’t see each other again until high school, at a Kansas City B’nai B’rith Youth Organization convention where he was a big macher.
Jewish/Zionist organizations dominated our junior and senior years—he brought me into Young Judaea, and I brought him into United Synagogue Youth. We began to date, then go steady.
We got unofficially “engaged” when I went to university but I broke it off because I didn’t want to settle down yet. We got back together and, this time, we got officially engaged, but he broke it off. He felt he wasn’t ready. I was devastated.
We each went our own ways in marriages, in cities, in life. Barry married another woman. He was in sales and served overseas in the U.S. Army. They had three kids and lived all over, including in Tennessee where they divorced.
After I graduated from university, I moved first to New York, then Israel, where I worked as a journalist. I got married and had two daughters. We stayed ten years before relocating to Chicago. I was contemplating divorce when I went home to Overland Park to visit my mother. I hadn’t seen or heard from Barry in more than twenty years.
Then we bumped into each other. Rather, he drove over a hill as I was backing out of my mother’s driveway and almost hit my car, stopping just short of impact. My mother recognized him when he got out of the car to come over and get angry at me.
It was one day after he’d gotten a divorce and I was starting mine. He’d moved back to Kansas City. Now, he suggested we get together for a drink since we’d been out of touch for so long.
That was our new beginning. Barry supported me through my divorce and my move back to the area. The “soul mate,” the beshert, was still there. We got married and established a lovely life. He was stepdad to my daughters, and I was step-mom to his three grown children.
Twelve years ago, we decided to live in Israel. Here, we carved out a new life with friends, synagogue and his photography for my journalism.
We would have been married 29 years last spring. A heart attack took him suddenly while he was taking an afternoon nap on April 23, 2020.
I have lost my friend, my lover, my husband, but I will never lose the things we shared. How do you say goodbye to someone you’ve known for 68 years? You don’t. You think a lot about the good times and the bad, the agreements and disagreements, what you did together, the years you won’t grow together.
Sybil Kaplan is a journalist, lecturer, book reviewer, food writer and author of Witness to History: Ten Years as a Woman Journalist in Israel, and nine cookbooks. She and her husband, Barry, of blessed memory moved from the States to Jerusalem in 2008. Besides writing for North American Jewish publications, she leads walks in English in Machaneh Yehudah, the Jewish produce market.