I spent the afternoon in the company of two lovely 94-year-olds named Lyle and Ruedine. Next week, they’ll celebrate 75 years of marriage. It was a treat to sit and listen to what they remembered over their seven decades of marriage (and more than eight of knowing each other).
They’d been wed when he’d hitchhiked home during three days of leave from the Army. But not the first time he’d hitchhiked home, because on that trip, he couldn’t find her in town. They’d overcome children’s sicknesses. They’d overcome their own (his heart attack and her stroke). They’d survive his attack in the state capitol in Denver, when he was stabbed in the back by a random attacker that was never caught.
The enormity of their commitment was practically subtext. They knew it was the very reason I’d come to their living room in the first place, but they discussed it with a matter of factness that bordered on boredom with their own story. Boredom may be too strong a word; perhaps it was simply extreme familiarity.
They complimented me endlessly as our time together neared two hours, calling me “very kind” for listening to their story. They couldn’t know my story. They couldn’t know my heart’s wounds that haven’t yet healed, wounds that were caused by the loss of what they’d had and enjoyed for nearly three times as long as I’ve been alive. It was lost in its infancy compared to them.
But their story was restorative to me. I sat and listened and didn’t want it to end, but in all honesty, I struggled to ask journalistically useful questions. Their story of personal love became subsumed by stories of their family, and in all the ways that could possibly matter, they considered them the story of their love. Point to the results of their love, and you’ll see what you need to know, they seemed to say.
I can’t replicate their love to scale. They met in grade school. They’ve been with each other since fourth grade, essentially. But I’ll settle for the intensity if not the duration of their love, for it’s surely sustained them.