Holding Hands

I watched them through the window. Sitting across from one another silently. No words needed. He savored the sweetness of his chocolate ice cream and waffle cone, pausing occasionally to push his sliding glasses back up the bridge of his nose. She daintily nibbled at her vanilla scoop in a more lady-like cup. They spoke no words. They rarely glanced at each other. Neither of them needed to see or hear one another. They simply enjoyed their ice cream together. Pausing to wipe his mouth on the cheap crumpled napkin, he exchanged it for her wrinkled hand. Softly, he pressed his lips to her gnarled fingers, set them back down on the table, then continued to devour his ice cream. She didn’t blink, didn’t smile. She never even set down her spoon, but continued eating. His kisses are common place. I watched.

What must it be like to grow in life for such long time that words become unnecessary. Words, which once sparked such emotion in an early relationship, finally become useless, replaced by actions instead. Unlike a newly blossoming relationship or a marriage in its early stages, Time brings together two souls not with their words. Words that can cause more damage than any other weapon in one’s arsenal, that have less power to heal than to hurt, become dispensable.

Watching this elderly couple in Braum’s brought back one of the few memories I have of my great grandparents. My MaMa (pronounced in a very slow Texas drawl ‘MawMaw’) was deeply in love with PaPa (PawPaw). Before he died, they spent 69 years of their lives together. Married during the Great Depression, these two teenagers built a life together on a farm in east Texas. God didn’t bless them with biological children. (And their generation did not talk of such things as it is indeed a personal matter.) He did, however, send my Granny to them when she was 15 years old. They raised that sassy red-head like she was their own. They were God-fearing Americans, and they were as solid as an oak tree.

Wearing his faded blue overalls holding a glass gauntlet of tea, PaPa would sit in his favorite chair with the doily on the back of it. “Zettie, how long ’til supper?” he’d call to her. She’d come back with some snappy quip. As she would walk by, he’d reach out with a mischievous glint in his eye and pinch her. Despite her age, she’d whip around with a smile and say, “Oh, Russell!” And for a moment, just a moment, I saw it. I saw the two of them, teenagers crazy in love, flirting with one another. The memory is blurry around the edges of my mind, but I can see it. I can see them.

My memories of them are few. Living so far away, I was not around them as often as I wanted. Being so, my visits with them were even more precious. Each time I was there, MaMa would slip my brother and me some money with a wink and say, “Don’t tell PaPa.” And she would cook. Man, oh man, could MaMa cook. (Perhaps another secret to their happy marriage!) She would cook up a storm, and we would eat. I’d help her and Granny shell peas, we’d shoot BB guns, and fish. Most every time we visited, I remember seeing the love between MaMa and PaPa. I cherish those memories, despite my mind’s alterations and embellishments.

Theirs was a relationship that needed no words. Almost 70 years together was enough time that two become one. A look was enough. A wrinkled kiss on a wrinkled hand. A flirtatious “Oh, Russell!” was more than an “I love you.” A genuine respect for one another borne out of what I can only imagine of Life’s hardships was a foundation for happiness. A stubborn belief in God as the Almighty was a safe-hold against Life’s tumults. Theirs was a relationship that needed no words because what they had was so much more powerful than what any word could offer.