Overheard In September 2014

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This is usually the monthly post in which I chronicle snippets of conversations I have overheard in the month (last month’s post can he found here). Today my post is going to be about just one conversation. It touched me. It deserved its own post and not to be scattered amongst sillier conversations.

The other day I went to Costco (it seems like every time I go there something profound happens). I had not gotten out much in the month of September due to me being a blubbering mess. But we were quickly running out of paper towels and toilet paper (see blubbering mess). I could live without those. But then we ran out of butter. And things got real. So we made our way to the human zoo.

I sat in the food court while my husband went to purchase our food. I am not going to lie. Part of the reason was to people watch and people listen. I sat down but quickly realized that my back was to the action. I got up and moved so that my back was against the wall and I settled down to watch the people coming in and out of Costco. I like to see what people have in their carts. The carts tell so much more about the person’s story than the person would probably ever tell you themselves. One time we saw a man come out with nothing but Sensodyne Toothpaste and a watermelon (now that is probably a fun story).

“I like to watch the people coming out of Costco, too,” a friendly gravelly voice said to me from my left.

I looked over and the robust elderly man sitting at the table next to me smiled.

“It always scares me to realize that these people could be a jury of my peers,” he continued. I laughed. I had never thought of who would be my jury before. I just assumed I would not get caught never do something to warrant a jury.

We spoke a little bit about that. About the weather. He informed me that he was going to turn eighty one in a few days.

“Eighty one just doesn’t have the same ring to it as eighty does,” he said. “I have been blessed with good health. I would love to live, with a good quality of life, mind you, to see ninety three so that I could watch my oldest great grandson graduate high school. Now wouldn’t that be something?”

It only occurred to me later, as I contemplated this conversation on the way home, that my grandmother also would have turned eighty one this year. I was all ready crying from what will come further down in the conversation, but that realization broke my heart a little more.

He spoke with great pride about his grandson, whom he was meeting later that day, because he was borrowing his truck. Without going into detail, the grandson is following his dream and will be making it a reality later this year.

Then he said, “My wife would have loved to see all of this. She passed away last June. We had been married for fifty eight years.”

My eyes filled with tears at the depth of love I could feel coming from the tremors of his voice.

He proceeded to tell me their love story. They had been happily married. Their home was full of books. “Over a thousand,” he said with pride, “and all of them, hers. Back in our day, women did not continue their education. It was her biggest regret. So, what she did not learn in a school, she taught herself in books. We had books by so many different philosophers. I cannot even pronounce some of their names.”

My husband had joined me at this point in the conversation. The man looked at us and asked if we were married (I had made meatloaf the night before and had forgotten to put my rings back on). We explained that we were and he said, “I hope that you two have the same longevity of love that my wife and I had.”

He continued, “My friend’s wife passed away a month before J. He is all ready dating. I could never date again. I am afraid no one will ever compare to J. She was beautiful, smart… She knew everything. I would never find someone as amazing as her. Would you like to see her picture?”

“Yes, of course,” my husband and I both said.

He fumbled in his wallet. He was grinning wildly at this point. “When you get to be my age, you can carry whatever picture you want in your wallet and nobody can tell you any different. This is the picture I choose to carry around.”

He pulled out a wallet-sized black and white laminated photo probably taken in the 1950s of a young woman in her early twenties. Her blonde hair was piled high atop her head in short curls. Luscious lips grinned into the camera. A voluptuous bosom spilled demurely from a satin dress. She was beautiful. Even though the picture was laminated, it was obviously handled a lot. I held it gingerly in my hands. You learn something every day. On this day I learned that an elderly man had been walking around my town with an old photo laminated in his wallet more cherished than any other possession. And now I was holding it. You learn something everyday and sometimes life gives you a gift. Having someone entrust you with their most sacred item is the biggest gift of all.

I handed the photo back to him.

“She was so beautiful,” I whispered to him through my tears.

We sat and listened to the man’s life story. It was impressive. We spoke to him for over an hour. He talked of buying a leather recliner at Costco when his wife got sick so that he could sleep by her side and be with her at every moment. He has not gone up to the second story in their home in years. There was no need, because his wife could not take the stairs. When she first got sick, he redid the entire downstairs with his best friend who was a contractor. It was a great surprise to his wife and she loved it.

He has continued to sleep in the recliner even after his wife’s passing.

“I do not think I will go back upstairs. I need to redo my bathroom downstairs and put a shower in it. If my friend were still alive, we could do it together.” Then he chuckled, “Of course, I would have to remember that he would be eighty one, too. I am not sure what kind of team we would make.”

I did not get the man’s name. He sat and enjoyed a hot dog. The only thing on the table that he had purchased from the store was a bag filled with prescription medication.

We stood up to say good bye, “come back any time. I have a room here. I’ll be here all week,” joked the man.

I swept him up in a hug. This is rather hard to do to a man much taller than yourself. He felt solid to my body. He felt soft to my soul.

I feel fuller from my meeting with the man. I had no idea that there was love like that in the world. So often you hear the stories of long marriages, but you do not know the quality of the life that they led. But this man and his wife… They had it. They found the magic and they kept it. Alive. Even after death.

We left and my husband whispered in my ear, “I love you that much.”

My heart overflowed. But now my thoughts are filled with an elderly man grieving. Sleeping in a leather recliner. In an empty house. Holding a photo. Taken so long ago.

It is a gift. And I want to share it. Spread the word. True love really exists. Magic really exists. And it can be found at Costco everywhere, if you take the time to listen.

35 thoughts on “Overheard In September 2014

    • Thank you Stephen! I will write you this weekend. I hope to have a relaxing one. Knock on wood.

      Have a beautiful weekend!

      Jenni

  1. I couldn’t sleep and read your beautiful story at 430am. I’m teary…but this makes me so full in my heart regarding people in the world…that its not all bad. Didn’t you just want to squeeeeeze him? lol 🙂 I too hope your Oct. is better for you 🙂

    • I did just want to squeeze him. He was amazing. I hope to see him again around town. And thank you for your sweet words. I appreciate them. : )

      Have a wonderful weekend!

      Jenni

  2. What a beautiful story and how loving of your husband to say he loves you like that. Did he really say that? If so, no wonder you are a gnome lover. I am reading The Fault in Our Stars now and it says something like we meet the best people when we need them the most! I enjoyed this story today.

    Thank you for your blog. It really brightens my day.

    • Thank you! He really did say that. It was so sweet. : ). I so believe that saying is true. I really needed to hear what that man had to say that day. And the next day I overheard something else I needed to hear. It was two good life lessons for me.

      And thank you so much! I really appreciate it. : )

      Sweet dreams!

      Jenni

  3. Next time you need to preface your writing with…Warning…sad heart wrenching romantic story…guaranteed to make you cry.

    Now I am a mess. I can’t go out and walk the dog looking like this.

    I did love this story and how it was beautifully told.

    bisous
    Suzanne

    • Thank you Suzanne. I just wanted to share that man’s story. It is one that I will never forget. I hope he had a great birthday!

      Have a sweet Saturday!

      Jenni

  4. Thank you for writing that, Jenni – it’s just so comforting to hear how love and good and hope is still out there when so much of the world seems so hard. And the story was so wonderfully written.

    Michelle

    • Thank you Michelle! It was something I very much needed to hear so I am so happy to share it. And I am so happy that you liked it.

      I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

      Jenni

  5. Jenni, this brought tears to my eyes. I think it is so wonderful that you were open to having a conversation with this gentleman. I know lots of people (probably including myself) who would be in too much of a rush, too shy, or too dismissive to listen. What a beautiful gift.

    • Thank you Liana. I am actually incredibly shy in life, so it was so nice that he spoke to me. I would never initiate a conversation that long with a stranger. I get too nervous. But it was just very peaceful. I am so glad that it happened.

      Have a joyful weekend!

      Jenni

  6. Jenni, you’ve done it again. Reduced me to tears with your writing. What a beautiful moment you shared with that gentleman. I believe people get placed in our lives just to give us a little hug when we need it most. I think you both accomplished that for each other. Thank you for telling this story. Here’s to a beautiful October for you!

    • Thank you Kindra. I agree. I very much needed to meet that gentleman and it was just the best encounter. I am so glad you enjoyed it. I hope you have a beautiful October, too!

      Have a happy weekend!

      Jenni

  7. What a beautiful story. It reminds me of my grandparents. She would have been 81 this June. My grandpa has a photo of her in his office in a little short romper when she was 18. She was laughing and doing a silly pose. It is one of my very favorites of her. So beautiful and full of love and life. While I have never checked my grandfather’s wallet, it would not surprise me to find a laminated photo. (He does keep a rubber band around his wallet, though!) I could barely finish reading this, it so captured my soul in it’s simplicity of pure love. I am glad you got to have that moment with him. I am sure it made his heart glad to be able to remember her and share her memory with you.

      • Thank you Judy. I am glad that you liked it. I was happy to share, but I wanted to make sure I captured the moment okay. It had just happened so I had very little time to write it. I worried it would not read well, so thank you very much.

        Have a sweet weekend!

        Jenni

    • Thank you Alicia. And thank you for sharing about your grandmother. I did not realize my grandmother and her would have been the same age. I hope you get a copy of that picture. That sounds beautiful and what a lovely memory.

      I think the sweet man was happy to share about his wife and he were so glad to listen to him.

      Have a lovely weekend!

      Jenni

  8. Well now I’m finished reading your post and have tears running down both cheeks and a snotty nose. I never expected this! Thank you so much for your story and how beautifully you told it. I love your blog!

    • You are so nice. Thank you! I really appreciate it. I am glad you liked this story. I hope to meet the man again. I do not know if he realized how deeply his story affected us.

      Have a sweet week!

      Jenni

  9. Jen, Thank you for sharing such a touching moment. Your gifted writing made me feel like I was sitting in the chair next to you. So many of us rush thru our day never taking the time to stop and interact with each other. Your caring and gentleness must have touched his heart that he would share such a special story with you. He’ll never know his life story is our “never-ending-love story” thanks to an angel who took the time to listen that day.

    • You are so sweet. Thank you Barbara. I consider him the angel. He truly touched something in me. I really needed to hear his story. I think I was getting cynical that month. It was a perfect moment. It was nice that my husband got to be there, too. I agree that we all breeze through our days. I am trying harder to stop to listen, but it is hard. Thankfully I was not in a hurry that day.

      Thank you for making me smile. I appreciate it.

      Have a beautiful week!

      Jenni

  10. Oh, what a lovely, loving story. So sweet! It actually sounded like a movie, but much better bc it’s true! What a lucky day for you! I always talk to people like that too, or just smile & say hello when passing people like that. My dad has always talked to people when we’re out, on vacation, anywhere & everywhere. He’s never met a stranger. So maybe some of that is in my genes, though I don’t think I’m as selfless & kind always. Something for me to work on.

    And what a wonderful thing to hear from your husband, perfect timing too since you had a sad month.
    Happy day to you friend!
    :)rebecca

    • Thank you Rebecca! I love that about you and your dad. I wish I was more open. I will definitely talk to strangers if they speak to me, but I am so shy I will never share about myself. It was a sweet thing for my husband to say. It made me happy. : )

      Sweet dreams!

      Jenni

  11. This was such a sweet story and I enjoyed reading it. It was sad, but at the same time a happy story because this couple had so many nice years together. I love hearing positive stories of people having a great life.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Stacey

    • Thank you Stacey. I am glad that you liked this story. I thought it was an important one to share. It really touched me.

      Have a lovey weekend!

      Jenni

  12. I’m so behind on commenting on your blog, but just want to say I loved reading this story and thank you for sharing. I’m sorry to hear your September wasn’t great either…we’re two blubbering messes in a pod.

    • Thank you Rachel! I have not been back to Costco since then but next time I go, I will keep my eyes open for that dear man. I only go to Costco once a month, so it is almost time again.

      I will be happy to be a blubbering mess with you. : ). I hope your October is better!

      Have a sweet week!

      Jenni

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