I noticed them long before they reached the greeting card aisle. She’d pause every few steps for a deep breath, gripping the brakes of her walker so it wouldn’t fly out from under her. He seemed well acquainted with the routine–a familiar dance that allowed them to hit the mall at their own comfortable pace.
I’d been poring over rows of Valentine’s Day cards. Card shopping requires plenty of time, partly because I’ve spent nearly a decade writing greeting cards for Hallmark and other card publishers, so I’m a little on the picky side; and partly because it’s often hard to find a card that matches what I truly feel.
My least favorite cards begin with, “I know I don’t say it often enough, but…” and end with sugarcoated declarations of undying love. (I figure if you love someone, you won’t need to spring it on him or her thanks to someone else’s words. You’ll show it and say it often. Period.) My favorite cards are simple and succinct. Some are even blank inside.
So as I’m sifting through the sentiments, this elderly couple maneuvers past me. He’s using a cane, and she’s driving a hot-pink walker that must surely glow in the dark. Along one rail of her rig are vinyl stick-on letters that spell, “Shop ‘Til You Drop”. We exchange friendly hellos and they busy themselves with what she calls the “mushy-gushy” Valentine’s Day cards.
I savor a sudden flashback of my parents, who are both in Heaven now. This couple has the same white hair, same sturdy walking shoes, and the same carefully gauged stride, set as a safeguard against taking a tumble. But what really grabbed my attention was the back of his navy blue t-shirt, which reads simply, Psalm 89:1.
She gives a little squeal and points to something on the upper row. “Oh John, look at that,” she says, nodding toward a giant heart-shaped card with a fluted pink border. “It looks like satin. Touch it and see. Is it?”
He adjusts the tilt of his sporty tweed beret. “Is it WHAT?” he asks.
“Is it SATIN,” she says louder. “Look up there next to the ‘For Her’ sign; a big red heart card. See it?”
Mr. Beret squints and leans in for an inspection. “Yes, Sweetie, I do believe it’s satin. If it isn’t, it’s as pretty as satin. Why? You want it?”
She couldn’t take her eyes off the card. “I don’t NEED it; I’ve got boxes of cards, John. Why would I need another? I just think it’s pretty enough to frame, that’s all.” She went on about how she needed to de-clutter the closets, starting with that “silly” card collection. “I think I’ve kept every card I’ve ever received.”
“Well then, how ’bout we just pretend you didn’t see this one?” he says, tossing me a mischievous wink. When she glances away, he reaches for the matching envelope and holds the card behind him, like a kid set on springing a surprise.
I watch them meander up the center aisle, him with the big red heart card behind his back, and her stopping every so often to rest. She taps his shoulder and motions for him to lean down, then whispers something in his ear. He recoils as if he’s been stung, and lets loose with a loud, raspy laugh that draws the stares of a young hand-holding couple in Electronics.
The old couple disappears into a crowded checkout line. I think, What a blessing, to create a loving legacy that outshines the most beautiful Valentine’s card; to share lifelong experiences that leave a history of God’s faithfulness for generations that follow.
Perhaps the referenced verse on John’s t-shirt says it best:
“I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever. With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations.” – Psalm 89:1 (NKJV)
©2008, Bonnie Bruno
For more slice-of-life stories, visit Bonnie’s Macromoments blog: http://macromoments.blogspot.com