It was the way his eyes held her, completely held her, in adoration. The way his hand slid tender down her arm as he leaned in to ask her a question. This ninety-year old husband of a beautiful woman in the nursing home I visit each week, he's there so much he became a volunteer. Nine hours a day, seven days a week, he comes to be with his wife, pass out the mail and the newsletters, help with anything he can. I stole glances at these two and blinked back unexpected tears. I had to look away.
Pure, holy, aged, selfless, tender love.
How I ache to give that love, and yes, to receive.
Oh, but how? How did they get here and from where did they come? This is their story to tell and I only know but pieces of ours.
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Four consecutive, uninterrupted days we had to ourselves this past weekend. A luxury we haven't had, ever. Days to cruise quiet beach town roads on bicycles; to walk barefoot in silky white sand and chilly Oregon coast waters; to bundle up in early mornings and watch all the people digging for clams along the low tide and walk to the local bakery for pastries and coffee. Days to browse antique stores and garage sales and thrift shops for little treasures; to hike trails along the coast; to climb rocks with waves breaking around us; to explore caves and marvel at creation and unabashedly take too many tourist pictures. To share breakfasts, lunches and dinners in each others' company and fall into bed at the same time and not wake up in a groggy rush.
We both felt it, more than a page turning. A new chapter beginning. And this is where new begins, sometimes, with forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what lies ahead. Not because we really do forget, but because we'd rather build something new. Sometimes, we just need to tear it down and start over.
Can we just start over?
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I felt like my hands were melded to my brakes, felt the whole frame rattling along the streets, this afternoon as I ventured out for a ride. Seattle's streets are not for the faint of heart, and maybe I haven't wanted to admit after several tumbles off my bike and still recovering from last year's big injury, how faint of heart I really am. I'm downright, high blood pressure, tense forearms, hyper-vigilant paranoid on this old, creaky bicycle, on these streets. I navigate cracks, crevices, cement drop-offs, roughly grated strips of road, full-on potholes and everything in between with my eyes scanning hard, my heart pounding, like I'm riding through a field of land mines.
I can't do this, I can't do this, I can't do this, I'm pruttering (half praying, half muttering) to myself and God and whoever else might be in my path.
I'm so nervous of falling, because I remember how much it hurts. I remember the road rash, the cleaning out of raw wounds, the burn and the sting, to avoid infection. And I remember the scabbing, the stretching and pulling of healing - the scarring.
But I know this, too: if I want to dream of triathlons again, I have to get on that bike and ride through, ride past, that fear.
So I steer my way back home, a short ride, and I dismount to walk down the steps. I can't do this today the way that I want to, but tomorrow. Tomorrow, perhaps, I will ride just a little bit further, with a little less fear.
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Yes, today we lean in, and tomorrow, we will write a few more sentences; write our story a little further out, what we live that day in love. And there will be days, it's a pruttering, a dismounting and walking, but always, we pray with feeble hands clasped together, let it be a trying again tomorrow. So that one day, whether we're ninety or fifty or thirty-nine, our love pours out in that gentle courage of presence, of service, that look that passes between us of complete acceptance and adoration.
Joining with Heather and Emily and Jennifer.