When she was 70, Jan Adrian fell in love with a woman. She’d had two marriages, to men, and had been single for years when she met Kerry, the woman who is now her partner.

At the time they met, “I was not actively looking for anybody,” Jan said. Nevertheless, she found someone, fell in love, and began a relationship—with a woman, for the first time in her life.

I was curious to know what it was—courage? Frustration? Curiosity?—that allowed Jan to make the sort of change in her habits most of us don’t make, especially after a certain age. I asked Jan if I could write about her, because I was curious, and because “I’m a writer” is the semi-professional line inside which I hide my desires to pry and spy. After a day of sightseeing in Eugene (Jan and Kerry were visiting from Sacramento), we—Jan, Kerry, and my boyfriend and I—gathered in our living room, a phone recording our conversation. I asked Jan what changed in her thinking to spark her interest in a relationship with a woman after an adulthood of motherhood and marriages to men.

“I never made a decision to switch teams. I still haven’t,” Jan said. “I do not identify as a lesbian. If I were to break up with Kerry, I would not go out looking for another woman necessarily, so I do not feel like I made an internal change. What happened is, during the week we were in Mexico together, we fell in love. And I fell in love with Kerry not as a woman, but as a person.”

“I could fall in love with a man or a woman,” she added. “The nature of a person’s genitals is not what makes me fall in love with that person.”

We talked for another hour or so, Jan and Kerry unfolding the story of what happened to them during the week they were in Mexico together. In this four-part series, I’m going to tell you their story, but first I want to relay a few other facts, for background, because it is against a background of facts that what happened to Jan and Kerry in Mexico stands out in acceptably sharp contrast. One thing that I think becomes clear is that love, likely as it is, is still surprising in its ability to dislodge us from our pasts into a present we never would have imagined for ourselves.

Come back tomorrow for part two!