Most times I don't think much about the people I wait on unless they piss me off or make me laugh or wrongfully accuse the valet of stealing $3000 cash from a purse left in a car (True story.). But sometimes I wait on people who touch me, whom I think about long after I've cleared their dishes, sometimes for reasons I can't quite put a finger on. This was the case Sunday when I waited on a couple celebrating their 59th wedding anniversary.
Now, 59 years of wedded bliss to me seems pretty bogus. My mother's been married four times and my Dad left my mom for the woman he's married to now, so faithfulness in matrimony has long seemed like an illusion to me. For the longest time I just assumed that folks who were married all their lives had to be the most miserable of all the millions of miserable people in the world. I've spent most of my life believing that people cannot be faithful to one person their entire life. I've long thought that lifetime monogamy was something of fiction, a fairytale, and that the only way I could ever be happy is to never trust a man who says he will love me forever. Because he is either delusional or lying.
And then I met the boyfriend. And I really wanted that whole lifetime commitment thing to be real. Despite my inherent mistrust of him, he assured me that married people often do really love each other and remain faithful and commited partners as long as they both shall live. Until his father died, the boyfriend grew up under parents very much in love and committed to one another. At the time he told me this I was sure there had to have been a clandestine affair between his father and one of his co-workers. Because, I thought, that is how people are.
Over time I've come to trust my partner more and more. It's been really rough road though, one tracked with tons of tears. I want to believe that he'd never stray, never think of straying, but every expereince this body has had to the contrary screams that can't be true. Then I watch as he proves to me over and over again that he means what he says. It's scary when I let go and begin to fully trust.
That couple celebrating their 59th wedding anniversary looked as giddy and blissful as two kids on prom night. The sweet, old man told me three times how long he's been married to the woman at his side. He was so proud. I told him he was lucky, that she was very beautiful, and she was. She beamed at him when he spoke of their love.
"She's lucky too," he corrected me, "It's a two-way street."
Then he asked me if I wanted to know the secret to a 59 year marriage. His eyes were sparkling with the answer. Of course I wanted to know.
"You just got to chit-chat with each other." When he said it he nodded one time as if nothing in the world could be more true. I looked at his bride and she nodded in agreement.
I was clearing their table after they left when the old man came up to me again and shook my hand. "It was great, thank you so much," he grinned. His hand was cold and felt like tissue. "And don't forget: chit-chat!" Then he slowly turned and joined his wife, a face he's returned to tens of thousands of times.
I can't stop thinking about those two, about what their days together must be like. And the thought gives me a lot of peace. Also, it makes me want to chit-chat with the boyfriend.