His gaze shifts as she rises from the table. He puts a hand on her chair. Steadies it as she scoots back. She makes her way across the room. He looks past his beef tenderloin and gnocchi dinner. Past the vodka on ice, three olives, in the martini glass. She’s just headed 20 feet to the restaurant restroom, but he doesn’t take his eyes off her.
“You still watch her like that?” my husband comments.
“62 years,” he replies. “Gotta make sure nothing happens to her.”
She wakes up early. Gets the coffee going. His with just a little cream. She likes it black. She brings him his mug and then layers up on the sweaters and jackets, hats and scarves, and gloves to ward off the fall mountain chill. They are headed outside to watch the hot air balloons take off. It is balloon festival weekend in Snowmass. They take their place on the berm, side by side. The sun has just risen. The same fire that fills the balloons to make them rise lights up her eyes. She waits with awestruck anticipation. Like a child. Like someone who has only seen a hot air balloon once in their life. Or twice. Or never. The balloons begin to ascend. Colors and patterns float up and speckle the morning sky.
“Oh look Vin,” she says. “Aren’t they beautiful!”
The cruise ship had lots of options to offer its senior citizens on port days. Historical tours. Boat rides. Bird watching. Bingo. There was the all you can eat buffet and the lounge chairs on the deck that were good for reading books about the war and retirement. Then there was also this… the option to participate in an oceanfront yoga class. The sun was hot that day and the sea water crystal clear. He’d never done yoga. Wasn’t very flexible. Was on the backside of 80 and had forgotten to pack his yoga pants. It was no matter. He knew something. He knew that life is a grand adventure and to really live it sometimes you just have to say yes. Even if that means a little down dog in the sand.
She stops to the side of the crowded brick walking street. Turtleneck peeking past the scoop of her sweater. It’s a warm summer day in Barcelona. She reaches into her purse and pulls something out. It’s a little green bottle. Jim Beam. She unscrews the top and puts the plastic to her mouth, the olive skin of her taut cheekbones shines in the sunlight. She doesn’t even take a sip. Just lets the liquid touch her lips. “For the cough,” she says, a twinkle in her winking eye. There are people bustling all around us. Street performers. Tourists. Locals in a hurry. Vendors hawking their wares. Most don’t notice grandma and her airplane sized bottle. Those who do, smile. This same bottle has been in her purse for two weeks. Grandpa let’s out a breath and his lips curl up when he looks in her direction. I could tell what he was thinking. “That’s my girl.”
After 62 years of marriage there is no him and no her anymore. Not in the “I’ve lost my own identity” kind of way, but in the, “I am nothing without my teammate,” kind of way. They are what love can look like when you say yes. On repeat.
After 80 plus years of life there is still no “we’re too old,” with them. There’s just, “what do you need?” and “how can we help?” and “what fun can we have?” They are what life can look like when you say yes. On repeat.
Need a last-minute Santa for the Christmas Eve church service? “You bet,” he said, “but not unless Mrs. Claus is by my side. 62 years. Not going to change that now.” Want hundreds of homemade cookies made for your wedding? “Sure thing,” she says. “With his help we’ll get it done.” Could use some new shelves for your kitchen cabinets? “I’ve never used an electric saw before,” he said, “but I will figure it out. ” (Okay that one actually reeeeaaaalllllly scared me, and took a slice out of our patio table).
You probably think these stories of love and adventure are sweet?
You probably hope some day this is you?
Please hear this.
It can be.
Someday you can be them.
Because once upon a time they were you.
There were nights when he worked late. Times he just needed a beer with the boys. There were days when she got tired of the kids and the laundry and doing the same damn things all the time. They stressed about money and paying the bills. They needed a vacation. They worried about things, like whether or not to take that new job, trade in that old car, and where to send the kids to school. They made new friends and lost touch with old. They got short with each other. They fought. They made up. There were days when they went to bed mad and woke up mad and there were nights when one of them slept on the couch.
They got from where we are to where they are and here’s how they did it.
They said yes.
Yes to God. Yes to each other. Yes to adventure.
Husbands, can you be like this? Wives, can we be like this? Will you join me in the yes parade?
Let’s drink coffee and watch balloons fly and hold hands in the sunrise when our hair is gray and our skin has wrinkles and I wear turtlenecks and your belly sticks out. Let’s make people smile at the beach, and at weddings, and on the cobblestone streets of Barcelona, and in the jam-packed pews of the church on Christmas Eve. Let’s go big or go home. And when we get to their age, let’s go big and then go home. Because for goodness sake, when we’re 80 and we’ve gone all chaturanga in the sun, we’re going to need a nap.