Delia Ephron’s romance and second marriage sound like the perfect premise for a rom-com — ideal for the woman who co-wrote “You’ve Got Mail.”
The author, screenwriter and younger sister of late writer and movie director Nora Ephron had been happily married to fellow scribe Jerome Kass for over 30 years when he died of cancer in 2015 at the age of 78.
A few months later, Delia wrote an op-ed for the New York Times, detailing her frustrations with Verizon after attempting to close one of her landlines following her husband’s death. Two months later Ephron received an email from a Times reader — a man that her sister Nora, had set Delia up with more than half a century earlier. The two had gone on three dates, which Delia didn’t remember at all.
His name was Peter Rutter and he was a psychiatrist, a Jungian analyst living in California. He was also recently widowed.
The two began to email and just like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s characters in “You’ve Got Mail,” they fell in love.
“We fell in love so quickly,” Delia told The Post. “I really did think I had called into my own romantic comedy. I had written ‘You’ve Got Mail’ with my sister and it was completely about being in love on email. And then [Peter and I] met and we fell in love.”
Delia recounts her surprising tale in her memoir “Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life: A Memoir,” out April 12.
“Nora died in 2012, Jerry died in 2015, and Peter wrote me three days after the anniversary of Jerry’s death,” she remembered.” So I had been living with so much sadness. And one of those things about falling in love, for any age you are, it just bestows a glow, it takes over your mind and your heart. It puts you in another world. It was so exciting to feel that again, to feel all those great feelings.”
What also surprised Delia was how passionate the relationship was.
“It was very passionate and wonderful,” she revealed. “I make movies. I know that when two people fall in love in their 70s you want the camera far away. It was so magical to come out of all that sadness and then to feel again like that. It was amazing.”
And that’s when things decidedly took a non-rom-com turn. Four months after their first exchange, Ephron was diagnosed with AML — acute myeloid leukemia, the same disease that Nora had died from in 2012 at the age of 71.
After the cancer diagnosis, Ephron said, “I thought, ‘This is not a romantic comedy.’ And life isn’t. I think one of the wonderful things about romantic comedies is that, if you’re already in love it allows you to go to the movies and fall in love again. And if you’re not in love they give you hope. And it does happen often in a rather remarkable way I think. But it was the crash of illness which was so brutal on me. It was not — it did not feel — in any way feel romantic.”
Delia writes of her “brutal” treatment, which included an “immensely difficult, traumatic and scary” stem-cell transplant. The regime was so painful and unrelenting that, many times she spoke openly of wanting to die.
Throughout it all, Rutter was a constant presence, even though Delia said she wouldn’t have blamed him if he had left.
“When you fall in love at 77, death is right there in front of you — you can reach out and touch it,” she explained. “So I said, in my jokey way but I meant it, ‘If I get sick, I give you permission to leave me.’ And Peter just said, ‘I could never do that.’”
Instead, they married.
Ephron, whose parents Phoebe and Henry Ephron were successful screenwriters (“There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Deskset”) confirmed that her mother did coin the phrase, “Everything is Copy” and said that it’s accurate.
“Everything is copy, and it was incredibly healing for me to write this,” she added. “I won’t say that it made the trauma completely go away … unfortunately, most of us will have trauma in our lives that are pretty big in the course of our lives. If you can do anything with it, knit it, dance it, anything, write it, it will help you process it a lot.”
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