Lasting Love
[Dec 13, 1994]
by John Robinson

It was the glint of shiny metal in the bright sunshine from behind the hedges across the way that first caught my eye. Then, I could see the gray felt hat. It was a man’s hat, probably a Stetson I guessed, tilted over so the face beneath it could not be seen, as it inched closer to me. Head bent down over the handles of his walker, an old gentleman made his way along the sidewalk towards the lady who was patiently watching him as she led them both away from the apartment building. She was attentive and ready to assist, but kept her distance so as to avoid the appearance to others that her husband could not make his own way. In a few minutes he managed to maneuver himself to the parking lot where his wife stood with car door open, ready to help him climb inside.
She spoke in a steady, gentle voice as she drove them out of the parking lot towards the Big Spring Park to watch the feeding of ducks.

“The gentleman an’ his fine lady… they always together,” said the nurse who also told me, “you could watch them just like this every day about this time, providin’ the weather will allow it.”

I followed them to the park and spent the next hour just taking it all in as the sun warmed my back to fend off the winter chill. Every few minutes the lady would wipe his nose, removing the moisture that formed droplets, so no one would see him in a condition that might have caused him to be embarrassed. Though stoop shouldered now, you could imagine this man had once carried himself erect with the pride and dignity of the soldier he had been in his youth, and his wife would not permit him to appear otherwise before others.

Just then the wind began to threaten the brim of his hat and waves lapped the bank where the ducks were riding the surface in anticipation of receiving more bread from their audience. She made sure the hat was firmly in place, pulled the scarf further up his neck, and straightened his upturned collar, all the while reassuring him the ducks had enjoyed quite enough to eat.

After a while his head made a final nod and rested on his chest as sleep took over for his afternoon nap. I was just about to offer to help her make him more comfortable on a nearby bench when he suddenly raised his head.
“Oh,” she said to him, not seeing me approach to help, “you’re back.”
“Yes, that was good.” His eyes were alert as he surveyed the lake, the ducks and the rest of the surroundings. “Guess it’s time to go if we’re gonna make our 2:30

“There’s still time,” she said, moving to check his hat, scarf and collar. Apparently satisfied with her answer, he resumed his steady gazing at the choppy waves.

“He sometimes gets impatient,” she told me as she motioned for me to sit on the other end of her park bench. “You see, we’ve been a team for many years, my husband and me. I mean we were a great sales team. We used to ride together all over this valley, selling data processing systems, mostly to small companies. Those were grand times for us back then. Our favorite place for lunch was along the banks of the big lake at Guntersville where we would eat fried chicken while we watched the coots and wood ducks bobbing up and down for food. That was before our children came along.”

She was lost in her thoughts as she remembered how things used to be. Her voice was almost a whisper. Her eyes watered, but she wouldn’t allow them to shed tears. To her, the tears were private, only to be shared with her husband. I saw them welling up just the same, but turned away before she could see me watching too closely. It was a good thing too, because her emotions had found their way into mine and I couldn’t stop my own tears from escaping.
I thought to myself, I’ve always been too romantic. Here I am almost crying about this love scene I’ve been watching and I don’t even know these people! With that self admonishment, I tightened the grip on myself.

“So you see, John thinks we’ve been having one of our famous lunches again today, and now it’s time for us to see a customer at 2:30. He’s always been one of those people who could sleep for 10 or 15 minutes and wake up rearin’ to go. I can’t take a short nap… I feel terrible when I wake up unless I can sleep for several hours.”

“I’m the same way as you,” I said.

She stood and began fussing with his clothing one last time. “Well, it’s time for us to get back before this wind gives him a bad chill. Thanks for the chat.”
With that, she persuaded her husband to leave and after another several minutes retracing his steps and entering the front seat, they drove away.

That was the last I ever saw of the old couple, but I’ve always remembered meeting them that December day. I remember them because they were so obviously dedicated to each other. Their lives together had been a continuing love story — the way I always hoped the lines of my final chapters would be written — the way I hope there will be someone to love and love you as you grow older as well.

Now after all these years, I’m thankful to have witnessed the love I saw between John and his wife back then. That brief encounter made a lasting impression on me. Though I never knew her name, since I was Blessed with one who took care of me for so long the way John’s wife looked after him, whenever I tell this story to my grandchildren, I call her “Nancy” in memory of my own wife.

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