Secret behind controversial age gap marriage
A grandmother who found love with a teenager more than 50 years younger than her has told how "every day is a whirlwind".
Almeda and Gary Hardwick, who were 71 and 17 when they met, married in 2016, two weeks after meeting at her son Robert's funeral.
She'd been married before, for 43 years - but confessed in a new YouTube video Gary was her "soulmate".
"I was married for 43 years and there wasn't a lot of kissy, huggy stuff going on … no romance," she said on her YouTube channel, referring to her first relationship.
"[My current relationship] it's a whirlwind.
"We are always complimenting and kissing. We're enjoying our relationship. When you meet that perfect one, that's when you know you don't want to lose that feeling."
She continued: "The compliments, the hugs the kisses … that's very romantic."
The couple, who live in Maryville, Tennessee, had sex for the first time on their wedding night and previously described each other as 'wonderful lovers'.
"It was wonderful, beyond my wildest dreams," revealed Gary previously. "She really is my dream woman and the physical side of our relationship couldn't be better."
Almeda was speaking at the launch of her new talk show, Girl's Talk, where she offers advice to members of the public.
"I know you have a lot of questions to ask me," she said, explaining it would be a weekly show and she would draw on her own two marriages to give advice.
During her first segment she responded to a woman called Jordy to talk about how to make love last.
She explained: "You need to sit down with each other and work through the problem in relationships.
"Some people just fly off the handle and they don't want to talk about the problem.
"In our relationship we do little things each day to help each other out whether he cooks me supper or mops for me.
"We always thank each other.
"It's the little things like that, cooking a meal, washing dishes."
She emphasised the importance of complimenting your lover. "Always compliment him and show love," she said. "Show it every day, we aren't promised tomorrow."
Almeda and Gary, who previously dated a woman of 77 - tied the knot in a ceremony which he arranged for just $200 (£137) in six days in 2016.
After marrying the pair moved into Almeda's house with one of her grandsons who is three years older than her new husband.
"I wasn't looking for a young man, but Gary just came along," said Almeda. "I just knew straight away that he was the one."
Her happiness at their meeting was in stark contrast to the lonely despair the mother-of-four had endured after being widowed and then losing her eldest son Robert, 45, after a seizure.
"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,' said Almeda.
"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."
Gary, whose attraction to older women started with a crush on a teacher at the age of eight, said he had also been in turmoil, feeling trapped in an unhappy relationship with his 77-year-old lover.
"We were always fighting,' said Gary. "I fell into depression and was looking for a way out."
That's when Lisa, his aunt, invited him to join other mourners for her husband Robert's cremation.
Almeda said: "I'd noticed this young man with a lovely smile during the service and thought, 'Wow, this is the one.'
"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.
"Then, as I was walking to the door at the end, he came over and passed on his condolences. We didn't have much time, but it was enough."
For the next few months, she couldn't stop thinking about Gary. What she didn't realise was the feeling was mutual.
"It was an instant thing for me too," said Gary. "She had the most gorgeous, sparkling blue eyes."
Soon after, Lisa asked them both along to a family meal at the nearby Chuck E. Cheese's pizza restaurant.
"He was just as I remembered," said Almeda. "That smile, those good looks. We were both too nervous to eat, and at one point he fell over his chair."
She recalled: 'I just came out with it and said to him, 'Look, I'm 71 and you're 17. Am I too old for you?' He squeezed my hand, grinned, and replied: 'Age is just a number'."
That night, after returning to Lisa's with the others, Gary surprised her with red roses and a bracelet for her birthday which had been a few days before. Then they shared their first kiss.
"It made me feel like a teenager again," smiled Almeda.
From then on, they started seeing each other every night, and got the blessing of most friends and family, including Gary's mum Tammy, 48, and his grandmother Carolyn, 71.
Two weeks after their first date, she had no hesitation in accepting when Gary proposed on the phone. Six days later, Almeda wore a dress borrowed from his cousin as they married in the gardens outside Lisa's flat.
Since their wedding in October 2016, Gary's had their names tattooed across his chest.
"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," Gary said.
She added: 'The one thing I've learnt is that when you truly love somebody, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks."
This story originally appeared on The Sun and is republished with permission.