From across the table, I caught a moment between them. He scooped a heaping forkful of food and reached over to put it on her plate. They each tasted it and decided it was indeed very good corned beef hash.
After thirty-two years of marriage, it’s these little things that I think they enjoy most about their life together. They sit on the deck and watch the hummingbirds flit in and out and around the feeders. They make tuna fish sandwiches on Saturday afternoons after working all morning in the yard. They laugh about the crazy thing one of their grandsons said to them last week. They have their kids and grandkids over for hotdogs on the grill and a buffet-style dinner on Christmas Eve. The life they built together has touched so many others.
As she picks up the phone, I can tell by the change in her tone that it’s her husband on the other end. Her voice becomes soft and easy. She laughs at something he says, a joke she tells me later. This is normal, their chats during short breaks at work, as they keep up with each other’s day.
When she talks about him, she does it with a touch of reverence, like she knows she needs him and can’t imagine her life without him. Even when she complains about something he’s done or said, she just shakes her head and lets it fall right off her. He’s so much more good than bad to her, no transgression sticks too long.
They travel and savor. They welcome you in and pour you a glass. Theirs is a life-long love, begun as kids. It’s tried and true, honest and real. Before retiring to travel the world with each other, they each had a career in the service of others: keeping people healthy, keeping people safe.
Still now, they take care of the people they love: their children, their parents, their friends. They take life easy and make life easy for others. It’s an effortless kind of love.
Walking behind them on the path, I watch them point things out to each other — trees and flowering shrubs, berry bushes and ferns. They are sharing facts, asking questions, and learning, together taking in their surroundings, being present.
They walk at the same pace, a stroll, not because they couldn’t go faster, but because they are looking purposefully at all that is around them. He says something crazy to her and she laughs, a gentle rolling laugh.
Her head is bowed as he prays for their family. These two complement each other in beautiful ways: one quiet, one outgoing; one energetic, one calm. They get each other’s jokes, they appreciate each other’s ideas, they respect each other’s feelings.
Their values shine through them: integrity, community, putting God first. It’s easy to see how they walk through life together. When duty takes him away for a weekend, she misses her other half, impatiently awaits his return. She sees his patience and easy-going nature reflected in their daughter. We all see her hair and facial features reflected in that same little girl. They are growing a beautiful family: two little girls, so long hoped for, so fervently prayed for, so well-loved.
He smiles wide at her as he says something funny and she laughs with her eyes as she looks back at him. They’ve had their struggles, as all couples do, and took time apart, as some do, but now they are together again, making it look easy. I’ve seen their love come from serving others, putting others first, welcoming others in to their home, to their embrace. It’s an example, a wellspring of inviting others in, calling them by name, giving what they can.
There’s a lightness in this marriage, in this family, a promise so easily given, without second thought, to take care of the people around them. Their nature is to give and to care and hold nothing back.
In a crowd of friends, I look across the yard and catch his eye. He keeps up his conversation but looks right at me. Sometime soon, we’ll find each other and he’ll pull me close with an arm around my waist. I’ll throw mine around him and rest my head on his chest, and we fit.