I saw them at Wendy’s. I had settled myself at a table with tyke and was waiting for my wife to pick up our order. A car parked outside and a lady in a caregiver’s uniform got out. She opened a door and helped a sprightly-looking but very old man hobble out. He was carrying a walking stick and purposefully made his way to the entrance. He did not enter, and waited outside. The lady went back to the car, helped out and escorted an old, bent woman. She couldn’t even use a walking stick anymore. Together, the three hobbled slowly to the table in front of us. The old man gestured to his wife to sit first and then he sat beside her. A few seconds passed as they adjusted the paraphernalia endemic to their age – finding a place to keep his walking stick, adjusting themselves so they were comfortable, placing a small box of pills to one side of the table. The man ordered a chocolate shake for both of them and the caregiver left to place the order. I watched, curious. The woman was silent, staring listlessly at a corner of the table. The man was looking around the store. Finally he turned to his wife and said
“Isn’t this a nice date?”
A faint vestige of a smile appeared on the woman’s cracked, gnarled face, but she continued staring at the table and said nothing. He tried again. “That car there’s so shiny. It’s like I can’t even see what’s there. Really shiny.”
She finally responded. “What of it?”
“Nothing, I was just showing you. They used to be less shiny, that’s all. Want me to help you with your medicines? We’d rather get it done now before our shakes get here.”
His wife nodded slowly. The man reached for the pillbox and placed a couple of tablets on the table. He took out his quota and placed it next to hers. His wife looked at the tablets and said nothing. If I’d captured that scene right there as a picture, I’d have used it as the perfect example of old age. The slow deterioration leading up to a life sustained with medicine. Helplessness. Discomfort. Pain.
The man looked at his wife’s dejected face, reached for one of the tablets and held it in the air for a split second as he mulled thoughtfully. Then he placed it a few centimeters away from its original position and turned to her
This time she smiled a wide smile. He laughed too.
I don’t know exactly what they had or shared with each other, but at that moment I wanted it. I yearned for it like a petty thief. Because it was so easy to forget that such moments were to be worked for. The work is hard, the path is steep and there are moments when you feel you’re going to roll back down the hill or just fall off. There’s nothing else to do but keep looking ahead, hold her hand and walk on. You could share paradise today but it doesn’t last if you don’t work at it.
They sat there contentedly drinking their shakes, sitting close to each other. I wanted to take a picture but I let them be.
It’s our move.