One morning while GMR, Not Quite Fat Dog, and I walked Lake Junaluska, I saw an elderly couple coming our way down the paved path; it was really as if they were standing still and we were walking towards them. The husband held onto his wife almost as if hugging onto her, but instead he was guiding her as she slowly made her way. Her left arm was limp at her side, with the fingers curled inward almost clawlike, and her sluggish steps were pigeon-toed. Her eyes turned inward, clouded, as she made those deliberate steps. Her husband stayed close to her, measuring step for step, never taking his eyes from her. I didn’t say “Good Morning,” for it felt an intrusion, but simply passed them, leaving them to their privacy.
A week and a half later, I saw them again. The woman still walked slowly, her arm still at her side, her fingers still curled; however, this time her steps weren’t as if she were trying to pull them out of mud, and the toes weren’t pulled inward as much. And in those eyes this time, I saw a flicker of something—hope? Her husband was still close by her side, this time only holding tightly onto her arm, still guiding her. He glanced up at me and I smiled; he smiled briefly and then was all hers again. The woman never looked my way; perhaps afraid to take her focus from the path ahead.
Three weeks passed. Off in the distance, I could see a couple walking toward us, but I wouldn’t know it was the elderly couple until they came close, and when I saw who it was, I smiled. This time, the woman’s steps were livelier, toes forward, and though her left arm was still at her side, she was moving it back and forth a little, and, the fingers weren’t curled in as stiffly. Her husband only lightly held onto her arm, cupping her elbow. Her eyes glittered, a smile lit up her face. Her husband smiled, too. And they both looked at me as I said, “Good Morning!” The husband answered, “Mornin’!” and the woman gave me a beautiful smile, and in that smile I saw hope and love and determination—her face shone with possibility. They both looked as if they had just shared the funniest, greatest joke they’d ever heard, as if they were about to laugh aloud at the absurdity of it all.
They passed me by, and I turned to look at them. I thought about sacrifice. I thought about how lucky some people are to have each other. What would have happened to this woman without this man to hold her up until she grew strong enough to hold herself up?
It’s been a week since I’ve seen the elderly couple, but when we walk the lake area, as we did this morning, I will keep a lookout for them. I want to see her progress. But, mainly, I want to see the look of this couple. I want to know that sometimes, somewhere, somehow, some marriages look like this one does: holding each other up, keeping side by side step by step measure by measure. Trust—that’s the word I’m searching for. And sacrifice. And maybe love is in there somewhere.
(google image from http://www.starfishcircle.com/.a/6a00d83479fc3f69e201053649d42d970b-320wi)