Somewhere in a home centered between concern and content, and between the hours of warm quilts and cold look from coworkers, an old man walks past an old lady and without throwing her a glance sits down at a kitchen table. The table is tucked inches under a window, it’s glass steamed over from the warm, moist air inside meeting the barrier which keeps the cool autumn air outside. As the old man scoots his chair inward, the old lady sets before him a cup of hot coffee and a plastic milk jug, and picking up her cup sits 90 degrees to his side. She picks up her cup, and gently blowing to cool the brew, turns her eyes to her husband of more than 40 years. She anxiously awaits the moment to come as she has done for all her adult life. In over forty years, the moment has rarely deviated from expectations. There was the time doctors had given the couple unfortunate news, and the time a neighbor cried for help, and a hand full of other interruptions, opportunities, words, sighs, and tears. But the vast majority of the time this moment was consistent. The old man raised his cup to his mouth, sipped and smacking his lips exclaimed, “ahhh”. The sight and sound were received by the old woman and coaxed the first smile of the day. The compliment was given with respect and received with love, as all sincere compliments should. Here is where happiness lives, and what better way to start a day, what better gift to give? In a few short months, ‘retirement’ might be the word most frequently spoken in that home. But for today it still waits.
What happens next for this couple, every day, day in and day out is not only unworthy of mention but insignificant to the lesson they give us, and truly we can say most good lessons go past us like insects in a jungle - without the slightest thought. It may be best at this point to just picture them sitting at that small table, stuck in time, surrounded by a moment. But for you and I there is a lesson to move on with, to carry away from this brief scene.
The great tragedy in life is we take one second snap-shots from our world and draw a lifetime of conclusions. One might think it subservient for a woman to wait on an able-bodied man. Another person might take exception to an old man passing his wife without saying good morning. And yet another might wonder how two people can draw such pleasure from such a seemingly drool existence. Conclusions can be right or wrong at times, and after all, we all draw lines. We all constantly develop definitions from a few details, and lines in the sand between us and nonthreatening
matters. But those lines we draw are ours, and ours only, and therein lies the tragedy. Because the lines we draw get shoved, refined, and utterly scuff out by the feet of those around us. Most people are blind to this fact. Perhaps there is a fine line between kindness and servitude. Perhaps there is a fine line between cuddle and smoother. The tragedy is most people walk their lines with a confining, disrupting fear. They struggle to keep their balance like a high wire walker, and are terrified when another person seems to shake the cable beneath their feet. They lash out, “You’re crossing a line! You need to re-center!”, and move on as if the world obeys. When this happens we’ve assumed the part of an extra in the theater of life. We’ve denied others of understanding, but also ourselves of enlightenment.
And now, seeing in your mind’s eye an old man and an old woman sharing a moment each morning, or any morning, can you image anything more precious? Can you image anyone not wanting such a thing?