Walter Ruzek of Williston Park recalls how his prayers were answered when he met his future wife, Peggy.
One day in December 1983, I was in my new apartment in Bellerose, Queens, praying for some relief in dealing with a diagnosis of kidney disease and a recent divorce, when there was a knock at the door. A deliveryman had a plant for a tenant at the other end of the hall who was not at home. He asked if I'd drop it off.
I took the plant and later walked over to the apartment, where a very pretty young lady answered the door. I explained what happened and gave her the plant. She thanked me. Through the door I could see she had a nice place with real furniture, unlike my Spartan furnishings, and imagined she must be married with a nice stable life.
A couple of weeks later, the girl from down the hall and her friend knocked on my door. I welcomed them inside as it sure beat being alone. My neighbor's name was Peggy Benjamin. She was originally from Albertson and was working as an infant care technician at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside. Her mother had recently died and the plant I delivered was a condolence gift from a friend. She was very close to her mother and was struggling to come to terms with her loss.
I was very attracted to her sensitivity. I asked if she would like to go to a movie and she agreed. She was 30. I was 40. As we continued dating I discovered how loving and tender Peggy was to others. This was the beginning of our love affair.
On Sept. 6, 1986, we were married on the beach in Long Beach. All my prayers were answered. In 1987, we bought our house in Williston Park with money I received for wrongful termination from my job due to my illness. Then, in 1988, I got a job working for Canon USA in Lake Success, five miles from home. This was a blessing, as commuting was difficult with the advancing kidney disease. But best of all, when I was told I needed a kidney transplant, without hesitation Peggy told the doctor she wanted to be the donor.
Transplant matches of people who are not related are very rare, but we were a match. On Dec. 5, 1989, I no longer needed dialysis because of this gift from Peggy. She is my lifelong hero. I became fully alive again thanks to her.
Peggy and I have two wonderful children in addition to my three children from my first marriage. We also have five terrific grandchildren.
There are still plenty of bumps in the journey, but nothing can take away the wonderful years we have had together. Peggy is a part-time school aide working with special-needs children in the Garden City School District. Last year, I retired from my job as an IT manager at Canon USA, which relocated to Melville. I now volunteer at St. Aidan's Church in Williston Park. I am also treasurer of the Long Island chapter of Transplant Recipients International Organization, trying to pay forward the gift of life by raising awareness of the need for lifesaving organ donation.