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She hired him as a caregiver for her family. They fell in love.



The day Wendy Sanhai met Mark Madar, romance was the farthest thing from either of their minds.

Sanhai’s husband had died a few years earlier of a heart attack, leaving her to raise her two sons as a single mother. In the aftermath, she moved from Owings Mills, Md., to Cary, N.C., for a new job.

Not long after they relocated, the family faced another crisis in 2014: Sanhai’s father had a stroke, sending her on a desperate search for a caregiver. Her job as a scientist was demanding, and Sanhai needed someone to tend to her father — who moved in with her family after the stroke — as well as help out with her two sons, then 16 and 10.

“I was just completely and totally swamped; being a single mom, taking care of an ailing father, having a very demanding job, organizing a brand-new house and helping my sons and I settle into a new state,” Sanhai said.

Her son had a writing tutor named Marianne who overheard Sanhai talking about her need for help around the house. Marianne said that her older brother, Madar, was a recently retired widower who was very capable but feeling somewhat lonely and adrift. Marianne said Madar might be a good fit for the job.

“I was looking for a new direction in life,” said Madar, now 64.


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He had been married for 22 years before losing his wife to brain cancer. “I was quite depressed after the passing of my first wife,” Madar said.

Madar looked after his wife when she was ill, he said, but apart from that, he had no professional experience being a caregiver. But he was intrigued by the opportunity.

“I decided this would be something I could do,” said Madar, who worked as an executive at Verizon for 27 years, after spending six years in the Army.

Little did he know, though, that his caregiving role would set him on a new path.

“I certainly wasn’t expecting to find a life partner when I took the job,” said Madar, whose only child, a daughter, had recently left for college at the time. “I was mainly looking for fulfillment through helping others, to make my life more meaningful.”

At first, his interactions with Sanhai were purely professional, and since she was often tied up at work, their time together was limited. They did, however, go grocery shopping on several occasions, and Sanhai showed Madar how to cook some of her family’s favorite meals. They quickly bonded.


“Early on, I did become interested in perhaps asking Wendy if she’d like to date or go out, but I was afraid if I were to ask her out and she declined, it would be rather uncomfortable for me to be around,” said Madar, explaining that he was immediately taken by Sanhai’s strong values, and her commitment to her family. “We shared a lot of interests, and a lot of the same viewpoints on life.”

As they got to know each other, they realized how much they had in common: they had both lived in Maryland — Sanhai in Owings Mills and Madar in Columbia — before moving to North Carolina, they have children who are the same age and their spouses died within days of each other.

“There were so many links between our lives that we were completely unaware of,” said Sanhai, now 55. “It was hard to overlook the parallels.”

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Despite their striking similarities, Sanhai hadn’t noticed that Madar was smitten with her.

“I didn’t have time for any romantic preludes in my life,” she said. “I didn’t even have time to eat most days.”

But she did notice that she began to feel a fondness and admiration for him.


“I saw qualities in him that I would want in a partner,” said Sanhai, who worked at the Department of Health and Human Services for a decade, before transitioning to the private sector in 2011. “Even though we didn’t have a romantic relationship, there are elements that you look for in terms of the goodness in people.”

Their dynamic shifted one evening when Sanhai’s sons and father had their own plans, and Madar mustered up the courage to ask Sanhai out to dinner. To his delight, she said yes.

“We had a very nice evening together, and very quickly, our platonic relationship turned into romantic feelings,” he said. “It just seemed natural.”

And so began their unexpected love story. Madar proposed in June 2014, just four months after they first met, and they tied the knot in August of that year in a wedding that blended their backgrounds. Madar is Lutheran and of Irish descent, and Sanhai is Hindu and of Indian descent.

“Our lives together demonstrate the potential for blended families to live happily, regardless of their backgrounds, ethnicities and religions,” Sanhai said.

Neither of them thought a second marriage was in the cards, but meeting one another at a seemingly inopportune time gave them a new perspective.

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“When challenges seem unsurmountable, if you have an open mind and a positive attitude, somehow things will be provided,” Sanhai said. “Sometimes life just throws crazy, disruptive, unbelievably life-altering changes. You have to deal with it with grace, and the faith that things will be better off.”

“I could never find a better woman than Wendy,” he said.

In their nine years of marriage, the couple has overcome several hurdles, including Sanhai’s father’s death in 2017, as well as her breast cancer diagnosis in 2019.

“During all my surgeries, radiation and subsequent treatments, Mark supported me at every step,” said Sanhai, who is currently an executive at Deloitte, and is also an associate professor at Duke University, and an education fellow at the University of Maryland.

The couple enjoys exercising together, spending time with their children, as well as traveling. Mostly, Madar said, he simply appreciates “being with her in general,” regardless of what they’re doing. “She is my best friend.”

Sanhai hopes their story reinforces to others that “love can transcend life’s crises,” she said. “Mr. Right knocked on my door, and that has led me to the happiest time in my life.”

Source: Washington Post

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