Just beyond the front door of Susan Lorenc-Haluska and Michael Haluska’s home are two office desks pushed together. On top of each desk is an Apple computer. At first glance, it appears the couple just likes to face each other when they’re working. But the computers are how the couple stayed connected.
Until April, the husband and wife had spent the past six years in a long-distance relationship, during which they communicated every evening via their computer’s cameras.
The two met in 1980. Lorenc-Haluska was working at a clothing store in Johnstown, Pa., when the owners hired Haluska to hang new wallpaper. At the time, each was married to someone else. It was years later, when both parties were single, that they reconnected.
“I had reached my 10-year mark in 2005 of being cancer-free,” Lorenc-Haluska said. “Michael was the one regret in my life. He was fun and always in a good mood. He is the most positive person I have ever met in my entire life — there’s something about him. So, I got on my computer, did a search for him and left a message on his machine.”
She followed up with a hand-written note, and upon receiving one in return, she dialed his digits a second time. Hitting it off on the phone, the two planned to spend Thanksgiving weekend together for sightseeing, hiking and reminiscing. At the time, she lived in Washington, D.C., and he lived in Sarasota.
“In March (2006), he talked me into buying an Apple (computer),” Lorenc-Haluska said. “We’d talk during the day about what we wanted to have for supper that night. If we decided on spaghetti, we’d both make spaghetti and toast by clinking our wine glasses together. We spent three to four hours talking every night without fail for just over four years.”
The two kept their relationship interesting by coming up with fun activities they could do together.
“Apple iChat has that beautiful ability to see each other,” Haluska said. “I would find a lot of novels or short stories she hadn’t read, like Jack London’s ‘Call of the Wild.’ We played more games when we were apart than we do now that we’re together.”
Lorenc-Haluska even came up with a schedule for the activities. On Mondays, the two would read a book together, taking turns reading paragraphs out loud. They spent Tuesdays completing an art project, and on Wednesdays they’d play Scrabble. Thursdays were set aside for jigsaw puzzles. The two even screen-shared their computer screens with each other, so that both could see the same information at the same time.
“It got to the point where we didn’t even ask what time the other person wanted to have dinner — we’d say, ‘I’ll see you at 6,’” Lorenc-Haluska said. “We probably spent more time getting to know each other again than people who are dating in the same town do.”
In 2006 during a visit to Virginia over Thanksgiving weekend, Haluska proposed.
It didn’t matter that the two still lived states apart when they got engaged or even when they were married the following year Dec. 26, 2007, at the Sarasota County Courthouse.
“I had three more years with the Navy Federal Credit Union until I could retire,” Lorenc-Haluska said.
Said Haluska: “We weren’t about to disrupt that.”
When Lorenc-Haluska moved in with her husband in April, she had three requirements for the former bachelor: The 1946 house he lived in had to be re-floored; the bathroom absolutely had to have a door put on it; and the well water had to be changed to city water so that she wouldn’t have to hold her breath during showers.
“The heat here is killing me,” Lorenc-Haluska says, making a face at her husband. “He turns the air up, I turn it down, and then he makes comments like, ‘Wait until you get the $400 electric bill.’ But now we have more day-to-day interaction in person — and we have our desks turned around to face each other.”
Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected].