December 3, 2020

Tiny Love Stories: ‘Our Refuge From Reality’

My father, Seung-ho, has always had an eye for little details. About two months into sheltering-in-place, I asked him to grab me chocolate almond milk at the grocery store. When he came home with cashew milk, I started to complain that he got the wrong milk. He interrupted me, pointing to the bottom of the carton. There, in small text, it stated, “with a touch of almond.” My annoyance melted into a wide grin because I knew how hard he must have looked to find the most almond-like milk available for me. — Rachael Lee

ImageSelfie with my father.

Fifty-ninth Street subway platform. 6 p.m. The uptown train arrives. One car stops in front of me, another in front of him. Our stares are interrupted as we board the crowded train. He races closer to me, bumping into a mother holding a baby. He comforts the baby from crying, then keeps staring at me until my 77th Street stop. I get off. He holds his foot in the door to see if I’ll turn around. When I do, he jumps off. Forty-two years later, and married, we still look at each other with the same intensity. — Mark Wolk

When I was little, I would rush into my parents’ room at night to ensure they were breathing. As I grew older, I became increasingly preoccupied by death: Why do we do anything if the end is inevitable? Filled with existential dread, I’d burrow in bed for weeks. Eventually, my depressive fears found respite in knowledge. While completing my music therapy degree with an internship in hospice care, I met Seth, a registered nurse. After helping people die all day, we couldn’t help but climb in bed and be alive, honoring what feels right, right now. — Sarah Ward

At 90, my mother found fiction, something she had scorned her entire life. A news-loving, quick-witted, born-and-bred New Yorker, she breathlessly followed current events. Who needs a newsfeed with her calling me at work to announce that Tim Russert died? After two cornea transplants at 88, my mother shifted her perspective on fiction — and life. With her new sight, she views the world through a more sentimental lens. Now open to the imaginary, she devours novels, which we discuss like schoolgirls, reveling in our shared refuge from reality. — Melissa Zeph