Before Skype, before Facebook — before email, even — there were letters. George Ghossn and Lori Gertz starting writing each other in 1975, as pen pals, and for 42 years, as the conversation morphed from teen gossip to marriage, birth, death and parenting, they never ran out of things to say.
Last month they met for the first time. It was emotional.
Gertz, 54, a writer who lives near San Diego, and Ghossn, 56, who lives in East Islip, N.Y., and works for the local water authority, had never met or spoken for the more than four decades they had been (totally platonic) pen pals. Gertz had tried many times to arrange a meeting, but Ghossn was superstitious: He was afraid of disrupting the relationship that years of letters had created.
In the beginning, the letters had been superficial. "When we were young, we painted idyllic pictures of our lives," Gertz told Good Housekeeping. "As the years went on, it became more mature in what we discussed."
When Ghossn’s mother died, in 2006, he wrote Gertz a letter on an airplane napkin as he flew to her funeral. It was a moment they both realized that the other was a de facto family member.
The two finally met on April 11, when Gertz was in the New York area touring Hofstra University with her 18-year-old son. (She and Craig Gertz, an attorney, have been married for 20 years, and they have a son, Jonah, and a 12-year-old daughter, Talia.) A video of the meeting shows Gertz and Ghossn embracing, stepping back to look at each other incredulously, then embracing again.
“I didn’t want to meet her because I was afraid she wouldn’t like me or that she’d be disappointed,” Ghossn told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “But then I had a lot of loss in my family, and I realized she is my family and I needed to meet her. Now I wish I’d done it sooner.”
"When we met, he was sobbing,” Gertz said in the Good Housekeeping interview. “I was so gloriously happy. I didn't cry until hours later.”
The two still live on opposite coasts and plan to continue writing letters. They are also planning their next visit, at Christmas, which Ghossn plans to spend with Gertz and her family.