Just days before, in this same lounge, with its plastic chairs and scarred end tables, these two had marked the 20th anniversary of their first date. No, it's not the most romantic setting; it's just about the least.
But love transcends place for a couple who have been one another's "significant others" since they signed on with Single Book Lovers - a precursor of Internet dating - and he wooed her with French. He was, she remembers, charming in a roguish way.
Jewish, Belgian-born George was a hidden child during the Holocaust, sheltered in a Catholic boarding school for three years and living in daily terror. That past is always lurking in the present.
When they met in 1994, Ruthie was 57 and George was 62. He was a professor of Romance languages and a man with bursts of spirit and humor. Ruthie was an assistant professor of English, juggling classes and freelance writing.
Those were good, rich years. Both long-divorced and independent, their union didn't require marriage. It has flourished through a deep connection that doesn't need religious or civil sanction.
Together, they traveled to Paris and Zurich and Geneva.
George's son and daughter each married, he became a grandfather, and Ruthie became a surrogate grandmother.
They both retired. And they still maintained separate homes because, for them, that worked best.
I'm sure neither of them could pinpoint the precise moment when things began to change. George's minor health issues became more major, inevitably intruding on the emotional landscape. It's such a common tale of autumn romance, a time of reckonings, and yes, renunciations.
I watched from the sidelines as my sister's life became an endless whirl of seeking help for George's back problems and debilitating headaches. She was crushed when they had to stop even the simple pleasure of taking walks together because his balance was compromised.
Again, there was no clash of cymbals, but a new era had begun.
The first year George didn't come to my sister's wonderful annual New Year's Day party was a reckoning for her - and for us. My husband and I missed him and the connection we shared as family.
Some women might have walked away. There was, after all, no formal marriage. There was not even a common home.
But no way was that going to happen.
So I have watched my sister bulldoze her way through, enduring hospital stays and the rehabs that often followed. I've watched her burrow through the endless forms and social-service complications that are now part and parcel of growing old and ill in this country.
"But what about you?" I sometimes ask her when she is exasperated and weary from the caregiving. "You have to take care of yourself."
Sometimes she agrees. Sometimes she gets upset with me for asking.
On a recent day when the rain came down in sheets, and fog was creeping in, my husband and I shared an afternoon with Ruthie and George at the latest rehab.
It was almost like old times for a while, so familiar and natural - coffee and conversation, a few laughs. Even a political argument.
But as evening fell, and the weather reports grew more dire, my husband and I gathered our coats and umbrellas and began to say our goodbyes.
George was sitting in his wheelchair with a look of such deep sadness etched on his face that we found reasons to linger.
Somebody flicked on the TV, life's white noise.
And soon enough, a jewelry commercial spread across the screen, with a beautiful young couple looking adoringly at each other.
They were so flawless, these actors with their sparkling eyes and perfect smiles. They were, we were to believe, love personified.
Then I looked at George. I looked at my sister.
And I saw a portrait of love that was far, far more beautiful.