Neither Impeachment Nor An ER Page Could Keep Them Apart

Nov 29, 2013
Originally published on November 29, 2013 6:49 pm

Friday is the National Day of Listening, a chance to sit down with a loved one, turn on an audio recorder and ask that person about his or her life. NPR's Nina Totenberg chose to talk with her husband about how they first met — and then found one another again years later.

You can find tips on how to record your conversation at nationaldayoflistening.org.

When Nina Totenberg and David Reines first met, both were married to other people, and Totenberg's mother was serving as Reines' real estate broker.

The pair wouldn't see each other again for another six years, when Totenberg's father, the famous concert violinist Roman Totenberg, was performing in Boston. Reines was also there, and he caught a glimpse of Totenberg during intermission.

"And I walked over — because I was star-struck — and I said, 'Hi, how are you?' And you sort of looked at me with a blank expression."

"That's not true!" Totenberg laughs.

"And I said, 'How's Floyd?' — your late husband."

"And I said, 'Floyd died,' " Totenberg recalls. "And then I said, 'How's Gayle?' "

" 'She just died,' " Reines responded. "And there was this moment where we sort of looked at each other and we went, 'Ah!' "

But there were a couple of stumbling blocks ahead. Reines began calling Totenberg, he says, but then she "got all caught up in impeachment" — covering President Bill Clinton's, that is.

Eventually the pair went to a concert together, but Reines, a surgeon, got called away on an emergency.

Despite her date's early departure, "I suddenly realized I'd had a really great time, and that I'd been — oh, my God — flirting with you!" Totenberg tells Reines. "This was a moment I really didn't anticipate."

"Do you remember what you said to me when ... we were first really falling in love, and I said to you, 'Do you think we're just lucky?' " Totenberg asks.

"I said, it was — it was kismet," Reines replies. "Gayle was up in heaven, and your mother was up in heaven, and they thought it was great. And they went to Floyd, and he said, 'Eh, OK.' So all three of them signed off on it, we figured."

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Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

NPR marks this day after Thanksgiving each year as a National Day of Listening. We ask people to sit down with a loved one, to talk about life together. Twelve years ago, I arrived in Washington as an intern for NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. She had just married a doctor named David Reines. Today, we hear a conversation between the two of them.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: We met when both of our late spouses were still alive, and my mother was your real estate broker.

DAVID REINES: She was - in Dover, Mass. And I was married to a lawyer, and you were married to an ex-U.S. senator.

TOTENBERG: And you invited my parents to...

REINES: I invited your parents to our house for a brunch and they said, our daughter's in town. Do you mind if she comes along? So I said sure, bring her.

TOTENBERG: And then we didn't see each other for another six years. And my father, who was then about 89 at the time, was giving a recital in Boston. He was a very famous concert violinist. And I decided that I would go.

REINES: And I showed up, and it was the intermission. And I looked over, and I saw you standing there. And I walked over because I was starstruck. And I said hi, how are you? And you sort of looked at me with a blank expression and...

(LAUGHTER)

TOTENBERG: That's not true.

REINES: And you sort of recognized me. And I said, how's Floyd? - your late husband.

TOTENBERG: And I said, Floyd died. And then I said, how's Gayle?

REINES: And I said, she just died.

TOTENBERG: And by then, my mother had also died.

REINES: And you - there was this moment where we sort of looked at each other and we went, ah, because both our spouses had died.

TOTENBERG: Within about a month of each other.

REINES: I wrote you a wonderful letter - it was beautiful poem - and you didn't write back.

TOTENBERG: I did. I just didn't write back right away.

REINES: Yeah. And then I started calling you on the phone, but you got all caught up in impeachment.

TOTENBERG: Yeah, I was a little busy. Eventually, I did call you and ask you if you would go to a concert with me in Boston, of one of my father's former students.

REINES: Yeah. But when I asked if - where I could pick you up, you said...

TOTENBERG: I said I'd meet you there.

(LAUGHTER)

REINES: You met me there.

TOTENBERG: I was chicken.

REINES: You were. We had a really nice time except for the fact that since I'm a surgeon, somewhere in the middle of the reception, I got called out for an emergency operation and had to leave.

TOTENBERG: But I suddenly realized, I'd had a really great time and that I'd been - oh, my God - flirting with you. This was a moment I really didn't anticipate was going to happen. And then we started just talking on the telephone.

REINES: A lot.

TOTENBERG: Do you remember what you said to me when I asked you if we were just lucky? When we were first really falling in love and I said to you, do you think we're just lucky?

REINES: No, I said it was kismet. Gayle was up in heaven, and your mother was up in heaven, and they thought it was great. And they went to Floyd, and he said, eh, OK.

(LAUGHTER)

TOTENBERG: So all three of them signed off on it, we figured.

REINES: They did.

SHAPIRO: Nina Totenberg and her husband, David Reines, with their story for NPR's National Day of Listening.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIME AFTER TIME")

MARGARET WHITING: (Singing) Time after time, I tell myself that I'm so lucky to be loving you, so lucky to be... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.