The woman says the 27-year age difference with her husband makes him a “better father” to her baby, despite strangers calling him the child’s grandfather or her own father.
“People often mistake my husband for my dad – but we laugh,” said Gretchen Dillon, 36, who met Michael Dillon, 63, after they became friends by regularly meeting him at a local supermarket.
Gretchen moved from Pennsylvania to Syracuse, New York and was happy to make friends. Michael, who is two years older than Gretchen’s mother, helped her find her footing in her new city by offering her a free room and a job at Airbnb.
As their friendship blossomed, the two quickly realized their feelings for each other were turning into romance and eventually started dating.
“When Michael and I first slept together, I was upset because I thought I wasn’t meant to be. [with] old man,” said Gretchen, market research analyst, Southwest News Service. “I took some time and came to terms with it, and now I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”
The couple said their friends were initially surprised by the 27-year age difference, but soon jumped on board.
“My friend tried to stop me from marrying him because he’s almost 30 years older than me, saying I’d be a widow, but I loved him and didn’t care,” Gretchen said.
In fact, Michael, an insurance adjuster, thinks their age difference is exaggerated. “The age difference is a big help in the success of our relationship,” he said.
“I’m more stable and mature than I was in my 30s.”
The couple had some problems, but they were not due to Michael’s age. After years of dating, Gretchen said she didn’t want a big proposal or a phone call, but Michael didn’t listen.
On Thanksgiving Day 2017, Michael got down on one knee in front of his entire family and proposed to Gretchen with a diamond.
“I told him I didn’t want a big show and I didn’t want a ring – he gave me not a ring, but a literal diamond,” she explained.
“I was so upset that he thought he could technically propose to me, I said no on principle in front of his family. The next day I cried, we had to talk a lot.
But a month later, Michael got it right. He proposed on a sunrise kayaking trip in Florida, and after three and a half years of dating, the couple married in February 2018.
The newlyweds decided to start a family together, and three years later, Gretchen learned that she was pregnant.
“Michael couldn’t wait to be a father again,” Gretchen said. The 61-year-old was already a father of two, but was excited to start raising another child more maturely.
The couple welcomed Shannon in October 2021 and are happy despite the confusion they sometimes face.
“People think I’m Shannon’s grandfather, but I just laugh,” Michael said.
Still, she admits she joined the baby playgroup, where she tends to pick up bugs.
“The immune system of a 36-year-old is much better than that of a 63-year-old.
“I have a cold all the time, it’s very tiring,” she said.
And Gretchen thinks her years will help her in the parenting department.
“I think his age makes him a better father,” she said. “He can’t be as physically active, but he still loves to play monkey with little Shannon. But he is more like a grandfather because he has more patience.
“I would tell any woman in my position that life is too short to be unhappy. If something feels right inside of you, go for it,” he added.