When Gary realized he had fallen for a woman more than 5 decades older than him, he was unsure about how the situation would play out. But, with a leap of faith, they hoped love was enough. Except that's not exactly what happened.
Meet Gary Hardwick, a Tennessee man whose unique love interest recently went viral on TikTok. How? Well, his relationship with a woman 53-years his senior caught the attention of many. Now, let's rewind to how it all began...
As he recalled, Gary's interest in older women began many years before his sudden claim to fame on the social media platform. In fact, back when he was just 8-years-old, Hardwick recalled his first age gap crush being on his grade school teacher. In later years, he dated an older woman, and from then on, Gary knew his type.
A Difficult Relationship
Before Hardwick graduated high school, he dated a 77-year-old woman. And, while he was all smiles around his inner circle, behind closed doors, Gary recalled, "We were always fighting." Unfortunately, the union began to impact his mental health negatively, and the young man knew he needed to do something to change the situation.
"I fell into depression and was looking for a way out," Gary admitted. With time, the relationship ended, and Hardwick was single again at 17. But, despite the sad emotions he may have felt at the time, he soon found himself in a new kind of situation…
Introducing Almeda, a mom, grandmother, and 71-year-old widow. Employed at Walmart, she did her best to continue living a fulfilling life after losing her husband in previous years. They had been married for more than 40 years, and then, all of a sudden, she was alone.
"I'd been married to my first husband Donald for 43 years, and so when he died in 2013 after seven months in hospital from complications with diabetes, I found myself on my own," Almeda explained. "I'd turn up for work at Walmart in tears, and my colleagues would ask me what was wrong. Deep down, I was searching for a soulmate."
Her Son Passed Away
Almeda was seeking happiness wherever she could as the loss of her husband was crippling. So, when her son, Robert, passed away soon after from a seizure, the woman was crushed to her core. Despite these horrible events, they eventually brought her to the exact location as someone who would become very special to her.
As it turned out, Robert's widowed wife, Lisa, was Gary Hardwick's aunt. And Gary was invited to gather with the rest of their family at the funeral. Recently out of his latest relationship, Gary was happy to be with loved ones. But, he never expected that crossing paths with 71-year-old Almeda would change his life forever.
"A Bright Light Through the Grief"
As Almeda mourned the loss of one of her 4 children, she soaked in love from those around her. And, with her family and remaining offspring by her side, each passing moment felt confusing and sad. After all, she had just lost her husband and her son. How could she ever go on?
Well...it was when her eyes danced across the crowd and landed on someone special. "I'd noticed this young man with a lovely smile during the service and thought, 'Wow, this is the one,'" Almeda recalled. "He was on the other side of the church, but I kept looking over at him. It was like a bright light through the grief."
A Small Gesture Went a Long Way
With her interest piqued with Gary, Almeda was happy when he came over to speak with her. "As I was walking to the door at the end, he came over and passed on his condolences," she explained. Even though the woman was still mourning the loss of her late husband and the even fresher loss of her son, she caught butterflies.
"We didn't have much time, but it was enough," Almeda stated. But, enough what? Well, as it played out, the quick interaction with young Hardwick made a considerable impact on the 71-year-old. She knew it in her bones; he was the one. But did he feel the same spark? Almeda had to find out.
She Knew "He Was The One"
The urge to speak more with him was weighing on Almeda's mind, but she knew that it would have to wait until another time. She had too much on her plate to be able to throw this curveball into the mix. That being said, the widow couldn't seem to get Gary off of her mind; no matter what she did, he was there.
"I wasn't looking for a young man, but Gary just came along," Almeda remembered. "I just knew straight away that he was the one." Now, she didn't know it at the time, but Hardwick felt the same! "It was an instant thing for me, too…She had the most gorgeous, sparkling blue eyes," he gushed. But, where to go from here?
A Family Reunion
Without any way to contact one another, all Almeda and Gary could do was think about each other. Soon, Lisa, Gary's aunt and Almeda's daughter-in-law, asked the entire family to reunite at the Chuck E. Cheese nearby for dinner. Hardwick wondered if Almeda would be in attendance and vise versa.
In the end, both ventured to the restaurant. "He was just as I remembered," gushed Almeda. "That smile, those good looks." She was overcome with emotion, and her heart nearly jumped out of her chest. But, there was one thing that she worried about…
"Look, I'm 71, and You're 17"
Without knowing how Gary would react to her interest in him, she felt nervous. And, he was on edge as well; "We were both too nervous to eat, and at one point, he fell over his chair," Almeda explained. Finally, she just blurted out the question that was on her mind.
There was no going back now. Did she make a mistake? Did she ruin her chances? Either way, Almeda needed answers. "I just came out with it and said to him, 'Look, I'm 71, and you're 17. Am I too old for you?'" The two sat in silence for what felt like forever as Gary formed his response.
A First Kiss to Remember
Almeda was nearly shaking in anticipation. But, to her surprise, this wasn't Gary's first time being interested in an older woman. "He squeezed my hand, grinned, and replied: 'Age is just a number.'" Suddenly, the 71-year-old's heart began to pound in her chest. That certainly was not the response she was expecting!
The family gathering at Chuck E. Cheese soon began to feel like a first date for the budding lovebirds. The entire group soon ventured to Lisa's house, and Gary took the chance to make a pit stop at Almeda's. He dropped off jewelry and roses, and in return, they excitedly shared their first kiss.
"It Made Me Feel Like a Teenager Again"
Feelings between the two were mutually growing. "It made me feel like a teenager again," Almeda recalled. Could these feelings be this genuine upon only meeting twice? The pair knew they both wanted to see where this special connection could take them. Their attraction to each other was undeniable…
And, now that Almeda had asked her big question of if the age gap bothered Gary and pleasantly received his answer, the 71-year-old woman felt like she could finally relax and trust her heart. So, they began to see each other daily, and they didn't hold back from cluing their families in.
Family Opnions Rang Clear
But, what did others think about the whole ordeal? Well, Almeda and Gary had certainly taken their affections toward each other to the next level. "We are always complimenting and kissing," reported Almeda. "We're enjoying our relationship. When you meet that perfect one, that's when you know you don't want to lose that feeling."
After their families witnessed the happiness the lovebirds brought to each other's lives, Gary and Almeda were pleasantly surprised to find out that their loved ones supported them! Even Hardwick's 48-year-old mother and 71-year-old grandmother gave their stamps of approval!
Gary Popped the Question
Although they hadn't known each other for long, Gary felt ready to take his and Almeda's relationship to the next level with their families on their sides. After all, they both loved each other so much and were absolutely crazy about one another. So why hold back any longer?
With both of their family's blessings, Gary, 18, popped the big question and asked Almeda to be his wife. And, nearly before he could get the question out, Almeda said, "Yes!" The couple was so excited that they were wed a mere 6 days after the proposal on October 26, 2015. But this was just the start of their next chapter…
"She Really Is My Dream Woman"
With about $200 on the table, Almeda and Gary got married in a wedding that took place close by to where they locked lips for the first time. Their families gathered outside Lisa's house, "She really is my dream woman, and the physical side of our relationship couldn't be better," Gary gushed.
And for Almeda? She felt the same. "I was married for 43 years, and there wasn't a lot of kissy, huggy stuff going on… no romance," she explained. "[My current relationship], it's a whirlwind." But, despite their abundant happiness, their union would soon be challenged.
The Hardwicks New Roommate
The newlyweds had already dedicated nearly every day to each other but still had their own homes. However, that changed after they became the Hardwicks, party of two. Gary moved into Almeda's home with hopes of building their new life together, but there was just one thing…
The lovebirds had a roommate…Almeda's grandson. Now, this young man was just 3 years Gary's senior, so this made for a bit of an uncomfortable living arrangement. Would this cause a dent in the couple's newly-established life together? Only time would tell…
A Love As Thick As Ink
Thankfully, Gary and Almeda's love was more substantial than what an unconventional roommate could potentially do to their relationship. While in their honeymoon phase, Gary recalled, "Almeda is so young at heart that age never bothers us; we never really think about it."
"I just know that God answered my prayers that day she walked into my life," he continued. Gary was so sure of his decision that he opted into making his love for Almeda a permanent statement. So, he got her name tattoed on his arm, accompanied by both of their names on his chest. But was this a good idea in the long run?
Did Gary Have Regrets?
As Gary saw it, despite being in different stages of life, never mind separate generations, he was sure this was what he wanted. And Almeda felt the same. Despite outsiders to their relationship wondering if Mr. Hardwick rushed into things or felt he was missing out on young adult shenanigans, he seemed as confident as ever.
"I never feel as though I'm missing out on anything by being married to Almeda," Gary proclaimed. It soon became clear to everyone around them that this relationship was everything the pair had wished for for themselves. Their 53-year age gap really didn't seem to impact their bond in any way negatively.
Attracted To Older Women
As Gary recalled, he had always been attracted to older women, and Almeda…she was the best one of all. As for their physical relationship? This was something they explored for the first time together on their wedding night. The pair described each other as "Wonderful lovers" with a strong romantic connection.
"I've never been attracted to younger women," Gary explained. "Even when I was 13 or 14, I've always had an attraction for older women, and when I told my grandmother, who raised me, I didn't know how she would take it." This was one of the troubles with going public; everyone else had their own opinions, positive and negative.
Making Their Relationship Public
As he explained, Gary's grandma supported him from the start and was in favor of his union to Almeda. Despite her grandson's new wife being her own age, the grandmother was always an advocate for her loved one. But, the rest of society? Well, not everyone was always as accepting.
Almeda and Gary were still swooning over each other, and they believed the rest of the world should be able to experience their special bond too. So, the couple launched a TikTok page along with an Instagram account to post their story online. But, this idea quickly backfired…
Going Viral And Getting Hate
At the time of this writing, the 53-year age gap couple's TikTok account has gained over 109,000 followers and more than 1M likes! Their Instagram page gained a lot of traction as well, with 17,600+ followers. But, despite the amount of "likes" they got, there were also public displays of onlookers' disapproval of their lifestyle.
While some followers could relate to their kind of relationship, others were massively confused and had many questions. However, they weren't necessarily asked in the best way. Some people even accused Gary of marrying Almeda for her financial state. Then, when they least expected it, things took a dark turn.
Their Content Got Banned
The Hardwicks' social media content was primarily full of Gary singing to Almeda and planting a big smooch on her lips before the video cut out. While this warmed the hearts of many, others disliked the content so much that they reported it to the platforms. This caused a lot of stress on the couple but wasn't even the worst part…
Almeda and Gary's TikTok account got banned from so many viewers reporting their page. "We had some of our content pulled down; it was reported," Gary explained. "It put us on block; we couldn't post on TikTok for seven days." Would this social media happening affect their offline relationship?
Did The Trolls Get Them Down?
Thankfully, the answer was no. The couple realized that their relationship might have felt like a bubble of safety so far. But, now that they opted into sharing their union with the world, their actions and lives were bound to be judged by complete strangers. Still, to them, age was simply a number that didn't mean much.
While the online banning may have made some virtual trolls happy, it had the potential to cause an uprise in Gary and Almeda's relationship. Was their vision of spending their lives together unrealistic? Would they ever be accepted by the majority? Only time would tell in this case…
"It Doesn't Matter What Anyone Else Thinks"
Luckily, the haters had minimal to no impact on the Hardwicks. "The one thing I've learned is that when you truly love somebody, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks," Almeda confidently stated. So, that was that; the couple was unstoppable and remained in good spirits.
"We've been through ups and downs together that we always overcame; looking back, it truly only made us stronger," Gary explained. As it turned out, the husband and wife were entirely on the same page. Their relationship felt stronger than ever, despite the several decades between them.
A Special Anniversary
Even in later years, Gary and Almeda seemed on top of the world. When it came time to celebrate their fourth anniversary, the lovebirds took the time to celebrate in a special way. And, Mr. Hardwick hopped online to share his thoughts with the whole world.
"Four years ago on this very day, I gave my heart and my soul to the woman who steals it over and over again every day," he wrote. "Until the day I met you, I never knew that it was possible to love someone so deeply," Gary continued. It was clear that their love rang true, then they took their relationship to the next level.
Their Fan Base Had Their Backs
Almeda and Gary had found a supportive niche online despite all of the trolls and virtual haters. In fact, they began to photograph themselves together and sell them on a popular online content subscription website. As it turned out, many other people were interested in their type of relationship.
Their fanbase began to grow yet again, and the dough was rolling in thanks to their abundance of subscribers. But, just when things seemed to be working out smoothly, yet another tragedy struck Almeda. And, this time, it heavily impacted Gary as well.
Almeda Had a Heart Attack
The Hardwick's relationship was full of love and care, but unfortunately, in April 2020, Gary's beloved wife suffered from a heart attack. This changed things for the couple, as Gary had to jump into action to help his woman. "The three blockages she has to her heart are high risk," Gary shared online.
Mr. Hardwick kept up their usual posts on their online platforms. But this time around, the content was much harder to share. During this time, the couple gained "Overwhelming love and support" from their fanbase; and they leaned into it more than ever.
"It Was High Risk, Pray For Her"
As doctors updated the couple, Gary shared the painful news online. "She had a stent. Her artery was clogged 100 percent; another was clogged at 90 percent. Two more were pretty clogged," Gary explained. "It was high risk. Pray for her." He was pleading for support for his wife.
And that's exactly what Almeda and Gary received. Many of the couple's followers sent well wishes for a speedy recovery for Mrs. Hardwick. "We are praying he [the doctor] inserts all three stents, and she will not have to do heart surgery," Gary updated. Then, something even worse happened…
A Second Health Concern
Thankfully, Almeda had recovered from her heart attack. They were back in action online and posted videos laughing together and enjoying life. But, nearly immediately after, they were hit with a second wave of terrible news. "So the test came back positive," Almeda and Gary had both contracted Coronavirus.
In a post on one of their platforms, the couple revealed they both experienced symptoms of the virus. "We do have COVID-19. We're in quarantine now for the next two weeks. We are only experiencing mild symptoms…We both have complete loss of test and smell, chills, body aches, fatigue, and a very dry cough," Gary said.
"We Are Out of Quarantine, Thank Goodness"
With each other by their sides, Gary and Almeda slowly nursed each other back to health. "Almeda and I are now currently on day six of COVID-19 since we first started having our initial symptoms, and thank goodness they have all been mild symptoms," Mr. Hardwick explained.
A matter of days later, another message was posted online, and this time, it was great news! "It is now day ten for my lovely wife and I, and we are over our symptoms, finally," Gary updated followers. "We are out of quarantine, thank goodness." The couple was abundantly thankful for their health and each other.
Love Conquores All
And, they didn't hold back at all on letting the world know, especially now. Gary and Almeda, with their 53-year age difference and all, were back in action as the happy couple they have been since their first meeting at Chuck E. Cheese. As of this writing, the couple has been an item for about 6 years.
"You are such an amazing wife in every single way," Gary posted to Almeda. "You support me in everything I do, you show me unconditional love every day and you always make me laugh and smile no matter what. You are truly the best my love." For more on the age gap lovebirds, check out their TikTok @_garyandalmeda_.