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Saltwater Portrait

The Problematics: A love story rooted in music

Mike and Lorraine Messitt enjoy simple life in Lewes
Mike and Lorraine Messitt say they love living near the water, and getting to play music together nearly every day. BY KEITH MOSHER
January 26, 2016

In an earlier life, Mike and Lorraine Messitt played side-by-side in a blues band in New York.

Mike was in graduate school in upstate New York, with long hair and a jet-black beard. Lorraine was a 23-year-old free spirit, running a small music store where the band started by playing open-ended jam sessions on Monday nights.

It was the late 1970s, and Mike and Lorraine became good friends. Just friends.

“We never had an argument when we were younger, and we were always friends. We respected each other,” Mike said.

“Just playing music, I just know that it's a trust situation,” Lorraine said. “I call it an intimate trusting situation, that everyone's going to start at the same time and make this a good moment. … And we had the energy to play from 9 to 1, slap a guitar on your neck and carry equipment.”

Then life took them their separate ways.

Mike graduated and went to work for New York state and universities. Lorraine worked for Avon Products and later married and moved to West Chester, Pa., where she and her late husband owned an art gallery.

And the years went by. Nearly 30 years.

Mike found himself preparing for a business trip to the West Chester-area. Because he traveled so much for work, he made a hobby of visiting art galleries and art shows during his business trips. As he planned his Pennsylvania visit, searching for a hip show to swing by, he stumbled upon a familiar face.

A quick search online brought him to The Visual Expansion Gallery, where he saw a photograph of a smiling Lorraine, clutching a glass of wine. The last name was different, but the face was unmistakable.

He sent the gallery a quick email. He didn't hear anything for weeks.

Meanwhile, Lorraine was traveling with friends and family, sailing in Belize. She had lost her husband to cancer, and was just starting to think about dating again.

In the sun on the sailboat, Lorraine said she opened herself up to prayer. She decided that when she returned home, she was ready to regain her social life. A card reader she had met on an earlier trip to Sedona, Ariz., had told her that she would soon cross romantic paths with someone she already knew.

When she returned from Belize and found Mike's email, she was stunned.

“We were reacquainted in 2009, and it wasn't on match.com,” Lorraine said.

“It just gives me chills to think about it,” she said. The day she prayed on the boat was the same day Mike sent the email, she said.

She contacted Mike almost immediately. “How soon can you get here?”

“She made it very easy for me,” Mike laughed.

Once they reconnected, they talked every single day. And just like that, as Lorraine said, “Ba-boom. And we were off and running, playing music, singing songs.”

Mike felt the same way.

“I really wasn't interested in any king of lasting relationship. When I saw her face on her gallery's website, it just changed everything,” he said.

He knew that first weekend when he saw her again that he was going to marry this woman, someone he had known as a friend and fellow musician back in their laid-back, hippie days.

“When you make that connection, if it's a good connection to start with, it's almost like you pick up where you left off. You don't have to present yourself as some other person because there's a history there,” Mike said. “You don't have to do the 'get to know me' part of the relationship. We started in a good place.”

In summer 2011, Mike and Lorraine bought a home in Lewes while they both sold their homes and Lorraine's art gallery. In 2012, on a cold and windy May day, they were married on the beach.

From the first weekend they reconnected, with Mike's guitar and Lorraine's bass, they started going over set lists. Just as their lives had gone their separate ways, their musical tastes had as well – Lorraine played zydeco while Mike played in a Celtic band. But it didn't take long to figure out that their best harmonies could be found in the music they grew up with.

“We did play blues together years ago, and then we went our separate ways,” Mike said. “I opened for James Brown!” Lorraine said, as they teased each other about her ability to sneak that fun fact into any conversation.

The two named their new band The Problematics, and now perform covers of everything from BB King and the Beatles to Neil Young and Van Morrison year-round at places like Jerry's Seafood in Lewes, Atlantic Sands in Rehoboth Beach and private events.

In 2014, their fairy tale love story took a turn: Lorraine suffered a brain aneurism that required surgery, learned she needed a pace maker and was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She doesn't dwell on any of that. She is one of the lucky ones, she said, who has been cancer free for about a year now.

“You learn a lot when you have that situation in the house. She had to eat my cooking, for example,” Mike joked, adding that the health scares brought them even closer.

Now they are retired, and live in a bright, welcoming, Zen-like home in Lewes, a community they say is the perfect place to settle down. Bike rides, walks, visits from friends and family, and volunteering with grant writing and fundraising for the grassroots group Save the 4th Street Forest and playing free gigs for Cancer Support Community, among others, keep them going, in between playing small and large gigs throughout the Cape Region.

“It's a nice, comfortable lifestyle,” Mike said. “But I still suck at golf.” Lorraine definitely doesn't mind.

“I just love Lewes because it is off the beaten path,” Lorraine said. “The park is such a gem. It's just so special.”

“It's just right for us,” Mike said.