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Carrying The Chair

Some Random Thoughts on Marriage, Divorce and Growing Old

Perspective is an interesting tool. Two people can see the same movie or picture and develop two entirely different ideas from it. I’d like to paint a picture for you today. The picture is entirely my own perspective, and it comes from something I saw briefly as I looked out my car window on the way to work. Maybe when I’m done you’ll agree with me, and maybe you won’t. I just want to try to put an image in your mind of what I saw. I’ll leave the rest up to you.

On my way to work, I looked out of my car window to the right and saw three people on the sidewalk. One was an elderly Asian gentlemen. He was very frail-looking and slow-moving. I’m almost positive he had a cane to help balance himself, but he also had something else beside him, a woman. She was younger, but by no means a “youth”. My guess was that she was either a child of the elderly man or some kind of health-care aide assisting her charge with some much-needed and required exercise. She stayed alongside him and though I couldn’t quite make it out, it seemed that she was either staying close to him, “just in case” or maybe using her strength to steady him as he moved. Whatever it was, it seemed she was there to be some kind of help or support to him.

Now there was a third person, an older Asian woman, trailing slightly behind. This woman seemed at a glance about the same age as the frail old man. She had that hunch to her back that some people get as bodies age and compress. My best guess was that this was the elderly man’s wife trailing behind him and his helper. Though frail-looking, she wasn’t nearly as physically fragile and weak as he was. Her steps were slow and short, but they seemed sturdy and sure, like she knew that her body could handle it. She also had something else with her. A chair. She was carrying a simple plastic chair. It look pretty run of the mill. My best guess is that it might have been a green plastic patio chair. The kind you by at Lowe’s for ten bucks when you need some cheap seats for the yard. It would be more than likely lightweight and easy to manage.

The elderly woman carried this chair, trailing slightly behind her husband and his helper. She held it “seat-out” ready to catch the older gentlemen in case he needed to stop and rest. I wish I had the time to stop and watch. Not as a gawker, but as a curious viewer. I can only wonder where this walk began and how long it would take, but I have to say even if was a short walk up and down the block, maybe even just past a few houses, I would probably still make it to work before them and I was 7 or 8 miles away in New York morning commuter traffic. This is to remind you again of how slow they were moving.

Well, that’s the picture I saw. I made many assumptions, but I don’t think it was much of a stretch considering the players in my little sixty-second drama. It’s a snapshot of life. I’ve spent time in nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities with both family and friends and you get a sense of what’s what. Still, the thing that moved me most was the wife, who I’m sure has a list of ailments all her own, trailing behind, carrying a chair for her husband to rest in when he needed. My inclination is to connect this to God and tell you how on the worst days he catches us, holds us up, gives us rest, etc… All true, but today, I can’t help but see this image in light of the hat I wear at work as a clerk for a divorce judge.

Please hear me, I know sometimes divorces are necessary for a variety of reason. For what’s probably over the thousand and more cases I’ve seen, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s simply convenient or just easier. It’s easier to divorce someone instead of choosing to love them and work through the hard moments. Sometimes, it seems easier to cut and run, instead of dig in and stay. It’s inevitable that the person you married at some point doesn’t look the same, act the same, or maybe even love the same. As a result, it can’t almost seem like you’re doing the person a “favor.” Or at least, that’s the excuse some people come up with. I also know that to work anything out, it’s take two.

And I think of the elderly couple with the aide and a chair trailing behind.

Did they think this far ahead? When we meet the “one” and fall in love, we all do that thing where you start fantasizing about growing old together. You may even come up with scenarios to challenge each other with. When I was dating my wife, I remember her asking me if I’d still love her when she was old and missing all her teeth. Without hesitation, I gave her an emphatic YES! But do we think that far ahead? Did this couple ever anticipate the scenario before them? Who knows? The fantasy in my head says that this woman so loves and cares for her spouse of 40 plus years that she is willing to provide comfort and rest for him, while she still has the strength to do so. Something that seems to be so rare today and I applaud it.

This is the hope for every relationship. Through a tumultuous sea of good and bad, you want to be anchored by a love that will not let go. We all want a love that takes us at our worst, and let’s be honest, we have a lot of more of those “worst” moments then we care to admit. We want a love that sticks with us through to the end. I know I’m probably stretching it here, but to be cared for like this, and for so long is a remarkable thing. Don’t take for granted the one who waits on you with care. Hold onto the one who will drop everything for you and love you.

As I finish this thought, I’m not wringing my hands, worrying if my wife will follow me with a chair when I’m old and frail. I’m praying that God will continue to make me a man who loves and serves my wife for as long as I am able. I say this as a horribly imperfect husband. A husband, who could just as easily be standing before a judge himself. I know I’m not reinventing the wheel with my thoughts. I’m simply musing about a snippet of life I witnessed and how it made me feel. Maybe in your own life, you’ve sat at a diner or in a movie theatre and saw an older couple still caring about each other, doting over one another and you romanticized about it and hoped that for yourself. That’s all this is. I see enough separation daily. It’s nice to see something not torn in half.

Since starting this article, I’ve seen this Asian couple quite often now. Despite some variation in who walks alongside them and the type of chair being carried, they’re pretty consistent in their short daily walks. I actually look forward to passing by them as I continue to hope for myself and my own future with the woman God blessed me with.

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