Taking the little ticket from the red roll and seeing four people ahead of me, I realized it would be some time, so I stood towards the back waiting my turn. The deli counter of the grocery store is an interesting place. You see the woman who insists on making the young man behind the counter show her thicknesses of each of the five selections she is purchasing - prior to slicing them, only to tell him when she appears satisfied with the fourth try, “Oh, just go with your original thickness”, the young mom assuring her little one that she will get a slice of cheese as soon as it’s her turn, and the gentleman desperately trying to locate the “no salt, no nitrate, oven baked ham” and when told they don’t have it, asks the girl behind the counter what he should purchase because that was the only choice his wife had written down. Her suggestion to, “Just pick something you like” was accepted with a chuckle and the admission of, “what I like and what my wife allows me to eat are two different things.” All interesting enough by themselves but then the not more than 4ft, 9 in elderly woman who, accompanied by her husband, stopping abruptly at the end of the glass display, caught my eye.
I have a fondness of the elderly. So much we can learn from them if we just take the time to listen, so much they have to offer yet they frequently feel forgotten in our “fast paced, instant everything” world.
I watched as her husband now about three steps ahead of her, stopped, turned around and seeing where she was said, “Oh no, we have turkey AND you didn’t eat it yet.” She then pointed into the case.
“No dear, we have turkey.”
With as much strength as she could, her frail little leg was lifted about three inches off the floor and she stomped that foot while continuing to point at the case.
I watched as his chest rose and fell heavily into a sigh as he walked the three steps back to be by her side. He put his arm gently around her shoulders only to have her quickly turn her head and move ever so slightly away from him. He half smiled while saying, “Oh, is THAT how it’s going to be? Ok then, show me.”
She walked closer to the glass and pointed. He once again, and in a very gentle voice said, “We have turkey.”
She shook her head from side to side as adamantly as she could and took his hand, guided it to the glass, and held it towards the bottom.
In the sweetest, most gentle voice he said “Oh my dear, I see it, I’m so sorry. Of course. Of course, we can get that.” His smile penetrated her feistiness and she lifted both hands, placed one on each side of his face, pulled it to hers and gave him a kiss. His, “That’s more like it” comment made everyone watching laugh as he took a number, looked around and announced, “Sun Dried Tomato turkey is her favorite, I get my girl her favorite.” It was a precious, precious moment.
Clearly something had taken her voice. He could have hurried her along, he could have gotten frustrated at her inability to tell him what she wanted, and he could have insisted that she continue on, but he didn’t. He took the time to hear her and in the end they both won - she got the turkey and he got a kiss. I can tell you that those of us who watched that tender moment, got so much more. We witnessed love. The stick together through thick and thin love, the - you don’t throw it away because it’s broken love, the - ‘till death do us part” love.
I think we can all benefit from understanding the patience of that husband to his dear wife. How many times are we in a hurry and “shush, oh come on, hurry up” someone in our lives? He realized she had something she wanted to tell him and he took the time needed to understand. I wonder if he recognizes that someday he may not be forced to stop at the deli counter, she may not be with him to make requests like this, and maybe he too realizes, that each moment he’s given is a gift.
It is my prayer that I recognize when people have something to say to me, allow them to say it while taking the time to understand, and as the years pass, that Tommy and I have a “sun-dried tomato turkey” kind of love, no matter what lies ahead.