To be honest, it was mostly just to start a conversation with my wife. The house can get pretty quiet just before we turn out the lights and I wasn’t sleepy yet. So, the other evening, I mentioned something that had happened early in our marriage.
After 36 years, one war, three kids, one granddaughter, three dogs, and thirteen moves, there are a lot of memories. On the grand scale of things, this one wasn’t very important, but it’s one that’s stayed with me.
At the time, I was in the Navy and had been assigned as the navigator on a new destroyer. I was in Newport, Rhode Island attending a school designed to acquaint me with such details as the sun rising in the east, stars and planets having assigned positions in the heavens, and that knowing where you are on the ocean is a good thing.
While there, I had some free time, so I called my wife of eighteen months and told her to come up and we’d spend that free time wandering around Newport together.
One afternoon, we stopped at an ice cream parlor. While we were eating our sundaes at an outside table, I saw an older but very well-kept Cadillac pull into the parking lot. Behind the wheel was a gentleman who looked every bit of 80-years-old if he was a day.
Once parked, it took him a few minutes to undo his seat belt and get out of the car. With that done, he walked around to the other side and opened the door for his wife. He then offered her his hand and, together, they went into the ice cream parlor.
After a few minutes, they came out. Both had triple-dip cones.
They sat at a nearby table and began eating. They were laughing and each would occassionally wipe the other’s chin and lick the other’s cone. I don’t think anyone else was paying them much attention and they hadn’t noticed that they’d captured mine. I pointed them out to my wife and she smiled at what was going on.
When they’d finished, the gentleman got up, held his wife’s chair, took her hand, and walked her back to the car. Again, he opened the door for her, helped her in, and walked back to his side. He then got in and drove off.
I never spoke with them nor did I see them again, but I believed then that they were one of those couples whose pictures you see in the paper - the ones celebrating their 50th or 60th wedding anniversary.
They’re the ones with more kids, grandkids and great-grandkids than you can name. They’re the ones who’ve weathered the bad times, enjoyed the good, and figured out how to make marriage a life-long adventure which, even back in the early ’70’s, was something of an accomplishment.
Like I said, this happened a long time ago. Back then, my hair was more brown than gray, I could go all day on two or three hours of sleep, and I couldn’t see my waist unless I actually bent over to look for it.
Still, I remember that one of the thoughts I’d had was that it’d be great if, one day, we could be the ones cutting up in some ice cream parlor while some young couple sat nearby and watched.
Now, after 36 years, I think we’ve got a shot at it even though I certainly don’t need any more ice cream and I know that there’ve been more than a few moments when my wife’s wanted nothing more than to ship me (and the memory of me) to the darkest corner of this planet with instructions for live burial.
Even so, what made me start that late night conversation with her was that, a few mornings ago, I caught her laughing when I dribbled some coffee down my chin. Her reaching over to wipe it off reminded me of that couple in Newport.
The thing is, even though she remembers the trip, she doesn’t remember the couple.
Doesn’t matter, though, because I do and, even though I love my truck dearly, selling it at some time in the future in order to buy an older Cadillac wouldn’t cause me much grief at all.