I met my new-ish friend Gail this morning for coffee. We met at 7:45 and she had explicit instructions to kick me out Panera's door at 9:00. Today is a writing day.
We chatted like two women with a deadline--100 miles an hour, no time for breathing---and at precisely 9:11 (ahem) a sweet gentleman placed his hand on my shoulder and asked,
Have you two solved all the problems of the world?
We paused, startled, and laughed.
Yes! Aren't you glad we're here to do just that?
As he ambled back to his table, his wife smiled and gave a patient wave, as though his behavior was nothing new. He settled into his seat and explained it all by saying,
We've been married sixty years, you know!
Okay, seriously. He had me at Hello, if you know what I mean. Sixty years? Who stays married for sixty years? Heck, I've been married for eight, and there are days when sixty feels like looking down a long, winding road, water vapor rising in the distance and obscuring the view, making it wavering and unreal and seemingly impossible to grasp.
Gail and I pulled over our chairs, taking his revelation as the invitation it was meant to be. We asked how they did it, how they do it, and were met with an event that took place early in their marriage, back when the kids were still little: They had words. A kitchen door was slammed. A cupboard door was slammed simultaneously, causing the sugar bowl to fall off the counter and onto the floor. The waste was was did it, she said. That, and the long, long stretch of time during which sugar crystals were found on the floor, no matter how many times it was swept. They learned then to talk it out. Fighting was a waste.
We chatted some more and were given more tidbits:
If you're irritated, stay away from each other for a bit (her).
Learn to ask the other what they think, and don't hold onto your position too tightly. Unless it's on the topic of ice cream (him).
They were sweet, oh so sweet, but something was burning in my heart. Something just didn't add up. Something I know to be true wasn't addressed as part of the equation, so I asked.
Tell me, are you people of faith?
There was the teeniest moment of silence, before she answered thoughtfully,
Oh, yes. There is no other way. When you're walking next to the Lord, really, with the Lord inside of you, it's easy to put yourself aside. That's what you have to do.
He nodded in agreement.