Celebrating 18 Years Together
Like most couples, Richard and Lesley Sinkin will celebrate their May 4 anniversary by enjoying a nice dinner out. "She likes shrimp. So we'll go wherever she wants," Richard says.
After 18 years together, those are words any wife would appreciate. And Richard knows how lucky he is to have Lesley in his life.
"A lot of people with disabilities figure they're never going to find a significant other," Richard says. "I figured I wasn't going to be like my two older brothers and live happily ever after."
When Lesley first spoke to Richard at a bus stop about 20 years ago, he had no clue what this would lead to. She talked about how they both enjoyed takeout coffee from the same local deli.
"I didn't really think much of it," Richard, 52, says.
So began a beautiful friendship and much more. The Sinkins are among the six couples who participate in YAI's Hankering for More, a program designed to spark social connections with peers, providing them with the tools to create and maintain their own social network.
'I Felt I Could Trust Him'
On their first lunch date, Lesley told Richard something that had scared off other men ... she had a disability. "I used to keep it a secret, but felt if I was going to get involved, I had to tell him," she says. "For some reason, I felt I could trust him."
Richard recalls her asking him, "Why are you still here? How come you didn't leave?" Richard matter-of-factly revealed that he also had disabilities.
Focusing on Abilities
She can balance a checkbook; numbers drive him crazy. He enjoys cooking and baking, which is fine with her.
"There was a glow in her eye that was like looking at a rainbow. It was so magnificent," Richard says.
Michael VanConant, Program Supervisor of Hankering for More, refers to the couple as "All Stars" and a role model for others. "They found out that they shared similar struggles in life," he says. "And they were able to look past them."
Hankering for More provides the couple with the support they need to make friends. They recently enjoyed an afternoon in Chinatown, enjoying lunch and walking along Canal Street.
Having been bullied as a child, Lesley tends to be more a loner. Richard has and still is changing her life.
'I'm Crazy About Him'
"I never thought anyone would like me. Finally, I found someone who didn't hate me,” she said in a recent phone interview, as Richard is heard in the background declaring, "I love her!"
"I’m crazy about him," she added
Richard got down on his knee and proposed about 20 years ago ... at the bus stop, of course. And they are living happily ever after, as husband and wife.