Monday, October 12, 2009

The Man Who Walks Alone

For the past several years at one of the Home Depot stores I visit regularly, I've seen an elderly couple walking. You know, like some folks like to do in the mall early in the morning, except these people do their exercising at Home Depot, making countless rounds from the entrance to the far right side of the store and all the way to the other end and back around. Regardless of the weather, you'd see these two walking at a pace that wasn't too fast but brisk enough to give proper exercise.

Last week in my visit to the store I saw the elderly gentleman making his rounds as usual, cap on his head and cane in hand, pressed shirt and khakis, almost as if he could be coming in to interview for a job but wouldn't mind too bad if he was turned down. I thought nothing of the fact his wife wasn't walking right beside him.

I came to find out she had passed away just weeks before. Then I find out they had been married for 59 years. Wow.

Let that sink in for a minute: 59 years ago, Harry Truman was president, the Peanuts comic strip was first published, Stevie Wonder and Tom Petty were born, and the first remote control for a TV was developed.

59 years ago there was no Internet or cable TV. Families were fortunate to have a telephone. There was no Internet, no facebook, and certainly, no blogs.

They were married through 12 presidents, 30 Olympics, 4 wars, and 2 new states being admitted to the union. 59 Christmases, anniversaries, and summers. Countless vacations, winter snows, and walks along autumn trails. Laughter, hugs, kisses, and kind words.

Now here this man is, doing what he knows to do on a Monday morning: go walk.

When I heard his story, about how he had walked all these years with his wife and how now his dear bride had departed after 59 years on this earth, I had to think about my own life, my own marriage.

How the words I said on July 12, 2003 will be my words until the day I leave this earth, be it in 59 years or tomorrow morning. I thought about how ridiculously undeserving I am to have a woman love me for such a long time as that.

I also wondered about those 59 years these people spent together, how if there were times he came home from work frustrated and caused a fight. Perhaps she spent too much money on shopping, causing a night of tension. Or the moments where irritation escalated into hurtful words. Days and week that maybe went by with few words spoken between them. Because in marriage, that can happen. The climax is what we decide to do with it. Do we stay or go? Do we forgive and love, or do we throw up our hands and walk out the door?

The bottom line for this man is this: in spite of how he might have been or how she might have been at certain moments, the commitment outweighed it all. Because marriage is a covenant not to be taken lightly. It's not a contract with negotiable loopholes to ease your way out of when things get tough. It's not a game that you can turn off when you feel like you're on the wrong end of some imaginary score. It's not a selfish act of desperation in which to use another person for your own desires, then leave them all alone. It's not a blaming match where you've got permission to give up when the other person does you wrong.

Marriage is a choice. A commitment. A promise that even when I might wake up unhappy with my spouse, that I commit to work and get things back on track.

God bless anyone in today's world that makes it 59 years of marriage. God bless anyone who truly lives out the wedding vow "til death do us part". God bless the man who now walks alone.

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