StoryCorps
8:00 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

A Love That Turned Difference Into Intimacy

Originally published on Thu October 13, 2011 10:01 pm

As love stories go, Mary Ann Allen and John Klein's relationship started in an unusual place. And they were something of an unusual couple, too. But as it turned out, none of that meant a thing.

Klein recently sat down with Mary Ann's daughter, Bernice Flournoy, to explain.

"Tell us how you met Mom," Flournoy says.

"I had a temporary position at a senior citizen facility in downtown Oakland," Klein says. "Mary moved in there."

Allen, who was 59 years old when she met Klein, had diabetes.

"I was managing the maintenance department, and she needed a couple of things done," Klein says. "So I went up there and adjusted the toilet, and made sure the doors opened and closed."

"She had just lost her left foot, but despite her health situation, she really liked to go out and do stuff," he says. "So I said, 'Would you like to go out for a walk sometime?' "

Allen said yes — and the two headed out together.

"She was in a wheelchair, so I pushed her down the street," Klein says. "And we just sat there, and looked over Lake Merritt, for an hour or so, just talking.

"And somewhere along the line, we just fell in love with each other. And you know, if you see us coming down the street — certainly didn't make any sense. I'm 17 years her junior, and she is black and I'm white."

"And?" Flournoy asks.

"And that didn't matter to her, or me," Klein says.

"No, it didn't," Flournoy says.

"And I'm not certain how much it mattered to others, but I think that it did."

"It didn't matter to me. She loved you a lot," Flournoy says.

"I know she did," Klein says. "She was my dear companion for 13 years."

Allen was 72 when she died from liver complications.

"And during the time that I wasn't there for her — because I was into drugs and alcohol — she needed somebody," Flournoy says. "And you were there. And I have to really thank you for that."

"I don't regret a second of it and I would, you know — of course — do it all over again," says Klein, 60.

"When she passed away, my love for her just blew up and got more strong," he says. "She is the love of my life. I didn't realize this deep of love was possible."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Nadia Reiman.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It is Friday morning, which means it's time again for StoryCorps. And today, Mary Ann Allen and John Klein's relationship is the story we'll hear about. That relationship started in an unusual place. John sat down with Mary Ann's daughter, Bernice, to explain.

JOHN KLEIN: I had a temporary position at a senior citizen facility in downtown Oakland. Mary moved in there. I was managing the maintenance department, and she needed a couple of things done. So I went up there and adjusted the toilet, and made sure the doors opened and closed.

At that time, she was 59. She had just lost her left foot, but despite her health situation, she really liked to go out and do stuff. So I said, would you like to go out for a walk sometime? She was in a wheelchair, so I pushed her down the street. And we just sat there, and looked over at Lake Merritt, for an hour or so, just talking.

And somewhere along the line, we just fell in love with each other. And you know, if you see us coming down the street - certainly didn't make any sense. I'm 17 years her junior, and she is black and I'm white.

BERNICE FLOURNOY: And?

KLEIN: And that didn't matter to her or me.

FLOURNOY: No, it didn't.

KLEIN: And I'm not certain how much it mattered to others, but I think that it did.

FLOURNOY: It didn't matter to me. She loved you a lot.

KLEIN: I know she did. She was my dear companion for 13 years.

FLOURNOY: And during the time that I wasn't there for her - because I was into drugs and alcohol - she needed somebody. And you were there. And I have to really thank you for that.

KLEIN: I don't regret a second of it and I would, you know, of course, do it all over again. When she passed away, my love for her just blew up and got more strong. She is the love of my life. I didn't realize this deep of love was possible.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: John Klein with Bernice Flournoy in Oakland, California. Their conversation will be archived along with all others at the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress. And as always, you can get the StoryCorps podcast at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.