In Yonkers, Mr. Spilkowitz was feeling something similar. He said, “I had this unusual summer graduation.” “Something was missing.” She was something Ms. Knight. When she rode the Get Free in October, a set of sea legs did not show, nor anticipated, the love set sail.
Ms. Knight, a newbie, was a natural. “I have a lot of guests on the water,” said Mr. Spilkowitz, who learned to crib at Cornell and was sitting gate-free for a friend. “Some people are eager to jump but hate is being given direction. And some just want to hang out and have a drink. Someone has the guts and instinct to be a good crew member which is rare, but Kamillah was more. By the end of his sunset tour of the Hudson, he was shut down enough.
For Ms. Knight, it felt right to fall in love in an active setting. At Cornell, she used to play rugby. And “growing up, my mom was very good about keeping me active, and she was also good about encouraging me to be myself,” Ms. Knight said. Understanding the importance of her African-American and Native American heritage was important to Taikisha Knight, who was a single mother like her daughter. The diversity and culture of Montclair, Ms. Knight said, helped keep any negative self-perceptions away from her past. She wanted equal protection from the decision for her daughter Kari, so she chose to raise her in this area. The family moved to West Orange, NJ in 2017.
Mr. Spilkowitz, after graduating from Cornell, has worked at Yonkers in Andros, a residential care facility for youth with emotional and behavioral problems. Her mother, Michelle Spielowitz, said it has long been clear that she will serve in a caring role. “Stephan is loving and extremely patient,” she said. “He always has this talent to adopt people.”
She and Kari, Ms. Knight’s daughter, adapted for each other on their first trip, in March 2017, two months after Mr. Spielkowitz, specifically accepting Ms. Knight’s invitation while she was on a cruise to the Bahamas. Before he was introduced to Kari, he battled with nerves. But when the little girl pointed a stuffed animal at a Pope emoji in the window of a Montclair store, she extinguished. “I jumped in and said the Pope Emoji is my favorite. And that was it. We clicked from there.”
The setting that Ms. Knight set with Mrs. Spilkowitz a year later surprised both of them. In the summer of 2018, Mrs. Spilkovit, a French-Haitian immigrant, was diagnosed Lewy body dementia. “Himself was not physical, psychological or cognitive, but his soul was still there,” Mr. Spielkowitz said. His family rallied to help his sister, Claudine Laffond, who lives in Australia, and father, Mark Spilkowitz, a native New Yorker raised by Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Poland, help fight their progressive disease . “We were not going to give up.”