13 March 2013

I’m in Santa Barbara on an assignment. I got here in time to take myself out to dinner. I was at my table watching the sun set over the harbor when I heard slow shuffling behind me and along came an elderly couple, who were seated across from me. 

I wasn’t paying attention to them until I heard the man tell the waitress they were celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary.  His bride was smartly dressed in a black pants, stripped shirt, and a black jacket, which had a corsage attached to the lapel, as if she were going to the prom. He was dressed much more casually. I couldn’t hear much of their conversation other than I heard him call her “honey.” She stood his anniversary card to herit had cartoon penguins on it holding hands — up beside her glass of wine. They chatted quietly, clearly enjoying each other’s company, and any silences seemed natural as opposed to because they’d run out of things to say. 

I was transfixed. I have dated some wonderful men. I’m still friends with most of my ex-boyfriends. But as much as I adored them, I don’t know if I could have ever made it to 65 years with any of them. And now I’ll never know what that’s like. Even if I got married tomorrow (and Santa Barbara's magical, but not that magical), I’m too old to get to 65 years with someone. 

It made me happy, and a little wistful, to watch them...so at ease with each other and yet still so respectful. The one thing I have learned from couples who have survived together for decades is that, even more than love, they have a mutual respect and like for each other. One of my favorite couples still looks at each other attentively when the other one tells a story that you know the spouse has heard so many times already.  There’s a kindness there that manifests itself simply by still being polite to each other. I left before the anniversary couple did, but I would bet my last dollar that he opened the car door for her.   

As I walked back to my hotel, the moon was up, the stars were out, and the water was gently lapping up against the shore. I thought about the couple and said a little blessing that they enjoy whatever time they have left with each other in good health. And then I wished upon a star that whatever magic they found with each other rains down a little on the rest of us who are still searching. 

When I’m traveling, I like to give to a local charity. My loving couple’s 65th anniversary wasn’t the only big news of the day: today we got a new Pope, so today’s $10 goes to St. Vincent’s Santa Barbara, a Catholic-run organization. St. Vincent’s, which has been around a lot longer then 65 years, provides services to underserved families and senior citizens, including transitional housing for single mothers, child care, and affording housing for low-income seniors over 62. They also operate a food pantry. 

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