"It's been a great 50 years. It's been a really great life," says Mel, of his wife Marilyn.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 22, 2022. It has since been updated.
Falling in love is easy; it's what comes after that's hard. When NBC Charlotte reporter and PEOPLE contributor Michelle Boudin's dad first laid eyes on her mom, he knew she was the one. He first saw her when she was crowned Carnival Queen at Queens College in New York in May 1961. "I told my friend that night that she would win. She was just so beautiful," said Boudin's dad, Mel Boudin, now 80, according to PEOPLE.
But, when she was 19, he was 20, "they were set up by my uncle, my dad's brother. None of them had any idea my dad had been in the audience the night she was crowned Carnival Queen," wrote Boudin. Now, "more than 50 years after they reunited, they can't be apart. Literally. My mom needs my dad to live. Today, laying in bed battling low blood pressure that leaves her robbed of any energy, she remembers the first time she and my dad met."
"I got butterflies," mom Marilyn Boudin, 79, shared. "He was tall, dark, and handsome and he was considerate and kind." But it was only months later that Mel realized he was dating the same girl that he appreciated from afar.
Every Day, My Dad Keeps My Mom Alive amid Her Health Battle, But Their Sweet Love Story Almost Didn't Happen https://t.co/gVdBCTy0Vi— People (@people) April 21, 2022
"He liked her so much that he gave her his fraternity pin. Back then that was the step just before couples got engaged. After a year together, they thought it would be a good idea for their parents to meet. It wasn't. My dad's parents were convinced that if they got married too soon, he'd never become a dentist — and unfortunately, they weren't very nice to my mom about it," shared Boudin.
But, a few days after the start of the new year in 1962, they broke up. She revealed she intentionally waited until after the holidays to call it quits because she wanted a date. Mel was devastated. "She broke my heart," he said. "I thought she was the woman I was going to marry, and I was beside myself when she broke it off."
But they both moved on and met other people. They enjoyed dating around quite a bit. Almost eight years since they broke up, they both ended up at the Green Mansions resort in Lake George, New York, on the July 4th holiday weekend in 1970. They slowly made their way to each other, and the first question Marilyn asked Mel was if he had become a dentist—he hadn't. The first thing he asked her was if she was single and she was.
They ended up spending the weekend together and just before parting ways, he asked for Marilyn's number. He said they would meet soon and go on a proper date. Three days later, he gave her a call. "I really had planned on waiting to call her, and I just couldn't wait," he says.
That's when they realized another coincidence. Both of them lived on the Upper East Side back in NYC, and were barely a block away from each other. They went for coffee on their second first date, and that was it. Mel knew he had to propose to her. But there was a small holdup as Marilyn had planned to go to Mexico with her friends. Once back, they were engaged, and in four months since then, they were man and wife. This past summer they celebrated their 50th anniversary in lockdown. "It was a magical day of reminiscing," her mom said. "We've had so many great times together. I wish we could have had a big celebration, but it was nice just being together."
At the start of the pandemic in 2020, Marilyn went into kidney failure, and they had to manage her health while keeping her safe from COVID-19. "While so many people complained about being in lockdown, they always stayed positive and upbeat. They are the kind of couple who plays Scrabble by candlelight when a hurricane knocks out the power," mentioned Boudin.
Before the pandemic and Marilyn's health, the couple was very social with a lot of friends, but once the woman's health began to deteriorate, things slowed down.
"She started home dialysis in April of last year, meaning every night she is hooked up to a machine that does the work of her kidneys, ridding her body of all the toxins that have built up throughout the day. My dad completes the 50-step process of connecting her to the machine every single night. It is simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming to watch," revealed Boudin.
"The last few months have been particularly difficult as she's struggled with a number of different health issues. At times she's been unable to get out of bed for days. My dad does the laundry, cooks for both of them, and helps her bathe," she continued.
"I realize what a burden it is, and if he were a different kind of person, he could have just walked away," Marilyn said. "She's my best friend," claimed Mel. "I wouldn't have it any other way. It's frustrating that this is what's happened to her, but at least I know that what I'm doing each night is helping her."
As for what makes their marriage work, despite all the challenges, Marilyn said, "Marriage is something you have to work at — it doesn't just happen. And we do because we love each other." Added Mel: "When we got married, we'd both dated around a lot. We knew what we wanted and we were both ready. We happened to find the right one. It's been a great 50 years. It's been a really great life." Even after five decades of togetherness Mel still opens the door for his wife, and Marilyn is just glad to be married to the love of her life and is grateful she said yes the second time around.
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Bloom Productions