Best Girl

There is an old man. He is skin and bones. He has an oxygen tank with him. The woman with him is old. Her hair is a bright white. She helps him walk toward an upright piano.

This fellowship hall is full of fried chicken and people. Men wear camouflage caps. Women wear blue jeans and T-shirts.

If you were to show up in, say, khakis, you’d be grossly overdressed. Take me, for instance, I am grossly overdressed.

There are enough deep-fried goods on the buffet table to short circuit the U.S. House of Representatives. Hot biscuits. Field peas. Sliced tomatoes. Hallelujah.

There is an old man. He is skin and bones. He has an oxygen tank with him.

The woman with him is old. Her hair is a bright white. She helps him walk toward an upright piano.

Their trip across the tiny room takes a fortnight. He holds her for balance. She keeps her hand on the small of his back. He shuffles.

Nobody is paying much attention to them. Most folks are doing what I’m doing—using a biscuit to shine my plate.

The old man sits on the piano bench and looks at the keys. He’s trying to catch his breath.

She rubs his back.

He starts to play, but he’s rusty. He punches out more wrong notes than right.

She keeps her arm around his shoulder and smiles. He can’t find the energy to finish the song.

She touches his face. I wish I could hear what she’s telling him.

He picks up where he left off. He plays to the end of the song—I don’t recognize the tune. He has more strength this time. Whatever she told him worked.

He plays another.

“There’s Just Something About That Name,” is the title of the melody, they tell me. A few ladies at my table hum along.

Light applause.

The woman kisses the man on the cheek. It’s just a peck, but it carries weight.

He plays something lively.

“There is Power in the Blood.” A guaranteed foot-stomper.

He misses several keys, and stops a few times. But I can hear what he means. And it’s good.

A woman at my table says, “He used to play for our school programs every year.”

I’ll bet he was something.

When the music finishes, the man stands on unsteady knees. No one in the room but his best girl is paying him any mind. She walks him to the table.

They sit. He is winded. She brings him a plate. He holds a plastic fork with a shaking hand. He has a hard time eating. She dabs his chin with a napkin, and helps him hold his tea glass.

Some folks try to make conversation with him. He doesn’t have the lung fortitude. He can only chew and breathe bottled oxygen.

“That was incredible,” one woman tells him.

“Sure was,” another agrees.

“Just beautiful.”

He struggles. His voice is a low whisper. I can hardly make out what he’s saying.

His wife holds her ear close to his mouth. He can’t seem to do it. The heart is there, but the wind isn’t.

“It’s okay,” his wife tells him. “You don’t have to talk, sweetie.”

“This woman,” he finally says, grabbing his wife’s hand. “This woman is everything to me.”

Everything.

25 comments

  1. Linda - July 22, 2017 1:37 pm

    True love: “…in sickness and in health.”

    Reply
  2. Laura Young - July 22, 2017 1:48 pm

    She took her vows seriously and true love shines through in even the most difficult situations- I would bet she would say “he is everything to me” as well! Thanks for always capturing the moments that touch us!

    Reply
  3. Catherine - July 22, 2017 2:00 pm

    Love, love. There is power in the love too.

    Reply
  4. Jennifer - July 22, 2017 2:18 pm

    Beautiful. You capture the human emotion perfectly. I absolutely love reading your blogs every morning. I lost my beautiful sister to suicide 2 years ago so the stories about you dad are especially poignant to me. Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Peggy Perry - July 22, 2017 2:30 pm

    There are couples like this in our small rural church. One gentleman is slowly losing control of his body and mind, but he always gives thanks for his devoted wife. They just celebrated their 66th anniversary. Watching love this in action makes yours eyes wet. Hopefully it will inspire younger couples to find that same devotion and work hard to keep it.

    Reply
  6. Gail Rains - July 22, 2017 2:34 pm

    So help me, Sean Dietrich, if you make me cry one more time, I’ll be outta tears!
    #signofagoodwriter

    Reply
  7. Gail.Michael - July 22, 2017 4:03 pm

    Tears. 😥

    Reply
  8. Perri Geaux Tigers Williamson - July 22, 2017 5:35 pm

    ❤️

    Reply
  9. Wendy - July 22, 2017 6:52 pm

    My in-laws’ wedding anniversary is next Tuesday. Number seventy-six! Some senility has set in the last couple of years, but how wonderful their devotion to each other from high school to now. Blessed am I for the example they set for their son, my husband.
    Thank you for sharing another beautiful story, Sean!

    Reply
    • Janis - July 23, 2017 12:57 am

      Wendy…please pass along Congratulations and Blessings to your wonderful in-laws! I hope they have many more shared years together.

      Reply
  10. Nancy Payne - July 22, 2017 7:36 pm

    This is my favorite so far…since my best friend got me onto you…makes me see my Momma and Poppa again…love the image of biscuit cleaning the plate…Thank you for your words!

    Reply
  11. Jeannie - July 22, 2017 8:16 pm

    We are getting towards that time of our life. I pray that our marriage will be a testimony to my children of the power of a long lasting love and of adhering to the vows that we took, just 40 years ago. We ARE everything to each other! Thanks for these beautiful stories.

    Reply
  12. Olivia Lawrence - July 22, 2017 11:51 pm

    Lovely. I was there for a minute. Heard the ceiling fans and watched him play. For a minure I was there.

    Reply
    • Suaznne M Wright - July 23, 2017 12:12 am

      Awwwwww….He is a blessing & blessed!

      Reply
  13. Sam Hunneman - July 23, 2017 1:27 am

    We should all be so lucky as to have this kind of love. As for short-circuiting the U.S. House of Representatives, in my honest opinion, I don’t think that would take more than a week-old Micky D’s burger these days.

    Reply
  14. Michael Hawke - July 23, 2017 2:43 am

    May God bless them both. It sounds like he already has.

    Reply
  15. Donna Holifield - July 23, 2017 12:54 pm

    Beautiful, just beautiful!

    Reply
  16. Diane C. - July 23, 2017 2:36 pm

    AMEN!

    Reply
  17. Susan in Georgia - July 23, 2017 9:59 pm

    Whew, reaching for the kleenex. To use Peggy Perry’s words from her above comment, this one made my eyes wet.

    Reply
  18. Jack Quanstrum - July 24, 2017 3:13 am

    Beautiful love story. True love is rare. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  19. Kathy Phillips - July 24, 2017 8:13 am

    You’re writings are full of compassion and caring. I love reading them every day. I have a big heart so I cry every time. Keep writing. I love it.

    Reply
  20. Peggy - July 26, 2017 2:16 am

    Thank you!

    Reply
  21. Deanna J - September 7, 2017 12:59 pm

    Love your blog!

    Reply
  22. Heather Miller - September 7, 2017 1:51 pm

    Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks hasn’t met me. I now get tissues BEFORE I read your daily story, and I can visualize and empathize with this loving lady and her husband. Thank you for your commentary on life.

    Reply
  23. Karen Bethea - September 7, 2017 3:13 pm

    I was sitting there with you as you watched and tapped your foot…”shining your plate” with your biscuit. She IS beautiful, isn’t she? Glorious beyond any model in a magazine and he is one handsome man to her, full of love and thanks. You touch my heart AND my past. You help me remember times when “dinner” was “lunch” and people ate “supper”…I had to explain all of these differences to my 40 something year old daughter the other day….someone was going to go have “dinner” and she didn’t understand what they meant at 11:00 A.M. I did.

    Reply

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