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Tiny Love Stories: ‘He Had the Nicest Toes’

Survival in Rural Oregon I found myself in rural Oregon, two years into a marriage with the wrong man and on a steep learning curve. My home …

Survival in Rural Oregon

I found myself in rural Oregon, two years into a marriage with the wrong man and on a steep learning curve. My home: a drafty hand-built cabin with an inefficient wood stove. My partner: a developing opioid addict. Life was dark and cold. Then I met my neighbors. Some my age, some 50 years older. They shared wine, stories and laughter. They taught me to identify native plants, dress a turkey, read the lay of the land, preserve a garden harvest. And to mend everything worth saving and loving — which, their kindness taught me, included myself. — Cate Keller

A self-portrait I took the day I decided to leave.


“No One’s Idea of Maternal”

Amy was a spunky 8-year-old. She lived with our friends, but they were too old to care for her, so she would soon move to another foster home. I was no one’s idea of maternal and had never thought of raising children. But Amy wanted a family. I told my wife, “I want to adopt Amy.” We filled out paperwork, readied a bedroom and waited. After a judge’s OK, we loaded Amy’s clothes, crayons and copies of Harry Potter into our SUV. It’s been 17 years. I’m still no one’s idea of maternal, but I’m lucky to be Amy’s mother. — Lynn Domina

From left: Sandra, my wife, Amy and me.

Dude, I Bet You …

The first notable thing was that his Chinese name, Du Dao Na, sounded like, “Dude, where are you going?” The second: He had the nicest toes. We’d met as graduate-level exchange students in Taiwan. Don was wearing sandals. At Christmas, he surprised me with a kiss. I hesitated. He said, “It’s OK — I’m not dating until I find the one I’ll marry.” I asked, “How do you know that’s not me?” He replied, “I worry you’d tire of me.” I said, “Oh yeah? I bet I won’t!” Twenty-five years, three countries and two children later, I’m still winning that bet. — Doris Chou-Durfee

Don and our girls in Urumqi, the Uighur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang in northwestern China.

One Last Lovely Dinner

My father lay dying of the coronavirus. A normally ebullient 96-year-old, he drifted in and out of consciousness as I, also infected, sat at his bedside. His lucid moments were precious opportunities for connection and FaceTime calls with his grandchildren. One afternoon, he commanded me to get his yellow collared shirt, blue blazer, khaki pants, Sperry shoes and one of his many bow ties. I laid everything on his bed as he talked about going out to a lovely dinner with my mother, who had died 17 years earlier. Then my father closed his eyes. — Katharine Cunningham

An old photo of my parents.

See more Tiny Love Stories at nytimes.com/modernlove. Submit yours at nytimes.com/tinylovestories.

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