Today we were privileged to attend the wedding (okay… we were so late we missed the actual ceremony…) and reception of a couple from our congregation. She was beautiful, he was dashing, the cake was delicious and we toasted with REAL Dublin Dr. Pepper. Wedding gifts can be tricky, but we think some of the best gifts we received came in the form of words from couples we admired, some with 50 years gone since they said their vows. With that advice in mind, here’s a story I wrote for this newly joined couple…
The couple sat on the porch swing, the reporter in a nearby chair. Three glasses of sweet tea dripped with moisture from the muggy June air. “Tell me, Mr. Atkinson, to what do you attribute your long and happy marriage?” The Atkinson’s youngest daughter had called the local newspaper to inform them of this momentous occasion and they’d sent the young reporter, Jack, over to cover the story. 70 years of wedded bliss is newsworthy, to be sure. A newlywed himself, the reporter was eager to hear what this couple had to say about marriage. “Well,” Mr. Atkinson began, his voice creaking with all of his nearly 90 years, “I ‘spect it’s that couch in our bedroom and the mugs in the kitchen.”
“Umm… excuse me, sir, but the… umm… the couch, sir? And the mugs?” Jack wasn’t sure this was going to work. Maybe Mr. Atkinson wasn’t all there.
Mrs. Atkinson stroked her husband’s hand, smiled at him and nodded to Jack, putting in her own two cents, “Best purchases we ever made, I daresay.”
Mr. Atkinson continued, “Every night of all our 70 years, we’ve sat on that couch with those mugs full ‘o tea. Sometimes it was for hours, and sometimes only ten minutes, but we’ve sat there and we’ve talked. We’ve covered wars, politics, jokes, television shows, radio shows, children’s antics… I ‘spect we’ve talked the whole world over sittin’ on that couch. Yep. Best thing we ever bought was that couch.”
Jack smiled and thought to himself, “Sure. Sounds great… for 50 years ago. Every night on the couch with my wife? Couldn’t happen. We’re too busy. Too many things going on and besides, my wife travels too much for that.”
As though he could read the young man’s thoughts, Mr. Atkinson broke in, “People today, they think they’re busy, and I ‘spect they are. But so were we. I was a traveling salesman for a long time. Never knew when I might have to up and go or when I’d be back once I did. But we made it work. I called my sweet Adeline every night. Sometimes it was 1:00 in the morning and she’d have to whisper not to wake the kids. She raised six of ‘em, ya know. Four beautiful girls and two of the strongest men there are. Yep. You gotta work for happiness. Ain’t nobody gonna hand it to ya.”
“But sir,” Jack just had to ask, “There wasn’t even one night when you just couldn’t work it out? Not even one when phones were down or… something?”
“Well, son, there were a few like that, now you mention it. Back when our first son was just a baby. Oooh, that was a storm! Took out half the buildings next town over. Phones were down for a week and I was out on business two states away. Still, I talked to my Adeline. I wrote it down. All the things I’d’a said if I’d’a been there by her side on that couch. She did too. She wrote me a letter and saved it till I got home. That first night back, I ‘spect we sat on that couch for a year talkin’ over all our doings, all the thoughts on our minds. You know, I kept that letter she wrote me. It was 10 pages front and back. Sometimes when I’ve been lonely– you know, my sweet Adeline, she been sick sometimes and in the hospital. When I’ve been lonely, I read that letter. ‘Spect I know it by heart.”
Jack sat back and looked at the couple. Wrinkled, brown, weathered skin stretched over frail bones. Hands gently touching, smiles on their faces every time their eyes met. 70 years of wedded bliss. Newsworthy. Noteworthy. And they made it sound achievable, too. On his way home, Jack bought a little blue loveseat for his wife. He bought two mugs and a box of tea. He knew where he’d be that night… and every night.