The Old Couple
©2008 R.G. Ryan
(This story first appeared in Snapshots at St. Arbuck’s Vol I)
The old couple sat by the window—he, nearing eighty, she, looking back to see seventy.
It was early Sunday morning at St. Arbuck’s and I was at my usual place in the corner.
There is something about busy people on the go that I find particularly inspiring.
Distracted by my surreptitious eavesdropping, however, this morning I accomplished little else.
There was something deeply compelling by this aged pair. I learned right away that they weren’t married but had only just met and decided to share a hot brew together.
They talked of their lives, of their lost loves—each had lost a partner to catastrophic illness.
They talked of the difficulties the aging process forces one to encounter.
The old gentleman said at one point, “I’ll be honest with you—I haven’t gone to a movie in twenty years.”
Expressing shock she replied, “That’s amazing! Why?”
“I just don’t do well in large crowds,” he said, his palsied hand quivering rhythmically as he lifted his coffee toward his lips.
“I know what you mean. When my husband was alive we were so in love that anywhere we went it seemed like we were the only ones in the room.” Her voice choked with emotion. After a moment she added, “I’m sorry.”
His eyes filled with tears, recalling, no doubt, similar experiences.
They sat like that for a moment, lost in memory.
Finally, they looked at each other, their eyes locking, and broke into laughter.
“Oh, we’re a fine pair, we are,” he said, slapping his bony thigh.
She sobered, nodded her head silently before saying, “It was good, wasn’t it? You know, being with someone whose love was so strong you never had to worry.”
His wrinkled face relaxed into a wistful smile. “Oh, you bet. You bet.”
After a brief pause he smoothed the newspaper, scrutinized it as if searching for something in particular.
He glanced her way and then once again at the page.
“You know, I could probably be talked in to going to the movies.”
She laughed and blew her nose on a tissue. “Oh, you think so, do you?”
They talked for a while more about what they might see and where.
Me? I was lost in the wonder.
Provisional or providential I know not.
What I do know is that I had just been witness to something exceptional.
Something fine, good, and healing.
I wanted to rush home as quickly as possible and gather my lady into my arms, tell her that she’s made my life worth living and that, to quote an old song, “She’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
I want to sit with her someday at St. Arbuck’s, and have some young buck eavesdrop on our conversation and be, perhaps, encouraged to go and do the same.
I want to be with her the rest of my days.
And I will.