I see them in the dining room. The man keeps his shaky hands in his lap, but it doesn’t stop him from moving. He looks uncomfortable in his own body.

It’s early evening. We are waiting for a table. My wife and I are standing in a long line of people who all had the same brilliant idea—to take the interstate exit and visit Cracker Barrel.

Behind me is a Baptist youth group. Mostly boys. I saw their vans in the parking lot. There must be fifty of them, and they all smell like hormones.

Ahead of me, an elderly couple. She’s pretty, wearing a floral shirt. He is two feet taller than she is, with wide bony shoulders. He is wearing a ball cap and holding her arm.

His hands are trembling. His head bobs back and forth. He doesn’t seem to have control over his movements.

The hostess calls them.

The woman says into the man’s hearing aid, “Table’s ready.”

He smiles. It’s a nice smile. I wish my smile was half as inviting as Old Blue Eyes.

I see them in the dining room. The man keeps his shaky hands in his lap, but it doesn’t stop him from moving. He looks uncomfortable in his own body.

She is playing the wood triangle game. I’ve never been very good at this novelty test. And apparently, neither has she.

No sooner has the waitress delivered their plates of food than the old woman takes a seat beside Old Blue Eyes. She tucks a napkin into his collar. She spoon-feeds him.

His shoulders start to toss violently. His head jerks to the side. He’s a making a mess.

She stops feeding and waits.

The shaking gets so bad that he starts rocking in different directions. It’s hard to watch.

But not for her. She talks to him like nothing is wrong. And even though he flails, even though the eyes of the restaurant are watching, she’s unaffected.

Finally, he calms down. She feeds him again. She dabs his chin with a napkin. She touches his forehead. She grins at him.

His face breaks out in smiles.

When he’s finished eating, she eats her own food—which must be cold by now. He makes conversation while she cleans her plate.

When they stand to leave, he holds her arm. They shuffle outside. I see them through the window. It’s an ordeal fitting Old Blue Eyes into the front seat. She buckles him in.

Their tail lights disappear.

I don’t know how long they’ve been married. I don’t know which county they’re from, I don’t even know their names. I don’t know if they have kids, pets, mutual funds, or bizarre political views.

And I don’t care.

Because I know their type. People like them made promises long ago. To stay together during good days and bad. To cherish the hell and the easy living. To visit Cracker Barrels off interstates together.

To feed each other in public, if need be. In sickness and in health. Richer or poorer. For better. For worse.

Until death do they part.

And it’s the most remarkable thing I’ve ever seen.

32 comments

  1. Cathi Russell - June 7, 2019 9:34 am

    They took vows & they’ve lived them. And it is a beautiful thing.

    Reply
  2. Teri - June 7, 2019 10:46 am

    This brought a smile to my fat and tears to my eyes this morning. True love at its best!!What a wonderful way to begin my day. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. GaryD - June 7, 2019 11:04 am

    He is surely blessed. Not everyone is as lucky as he.

    Reply
  4. RKB - June 7, 2019 11:26 am

    I hope to be as worthy of my vows.

    Reply
  5. Joe Patterson - June 7, 2019 11:41 am

    Sure is thanks again simple truths make beautiful stories

    Reply
  6. Debbie Taylor - June 7, 2019 12:28 pm

    This beautiful story reminded me of my girlfriend and her life partner, it moved me to tears.

    Reply
  7. Tim House - June 7, 2019 1:24 pm

    Just…. Wow.

    Reply
  8. Emjay - June 7, 2019 1:26 pm

    Many poets have tried to explain love. The simple, graphic, but poignant way you chose to express it is more moving to me than many poems I read as an English major.

    Reply
  9. Cheryl Hatter - June 7, 2019 1:27 pm

    That’s a beautiful story. I’ve seen it many times myself. It takes me back of mama taking care of my daddy. He wasn’t sick, he was older than mama by 25 years. She loved doing sweet things for him. I cherish the memories of her bring him coffee in his favorite cup and saucer. He would smile from ear to ear, as if he had just been handed something ever special. He loved her so very much, you could see it in his eyes when he looked at her. Rare and beautiful love. She passed away two years before him. He was never the same.

    Reply
  10. Shelton A. - June 7, 2019 1:27 pm

    Yep, that’s love-strong and pure. Thanks, Sean.

    Reply
  11. Leslie - June 7, 2019 1:42 pm

    Thank you.

    Reply
  12. jstephenw - June 7, 2019 1:51 pm

    Sean: Once again you have made my eyes mist up this morning. My parents were married 62 years. We lost mom in may 0f 2018. My 90 year old dad was right by her hospice bed when she passed, holding her hand. They had their ups and downs, splitting up was never an option. Just like that generation on D Day. You kept your promises.

    Reply
  13. Bobbie - June 7, 2019 1:54 pm

    I never know when starting your story if I’ll end up laughing, smiling or crying. Don’t have to say what today was. Again, a perfectly painted picture of one of your special experiences. Thank you for sharing it with your readers. As you said about that sweet couple, I don’t have to know one thing about you…personally, physically…your ideology, nothing. All I have to do is read your words, written from the heart, to know you.
    Thank you again, Sean, for being in my mailbox each morning. A wonderful way to start my day.
    God bless you😊

    Reply
  14. Donna - June 7, 2019 2:06 pm

    This is one of your best evers Sean. <3

    Reply
  15. Debbie Britt - June 7, 2019 2:21 pm

    And THIS is why I love reading your columns! Thanks!❤️

    Reply
  16. Sharon Reeves Reid Chandler - June 7, 2019 2:22 pm

    This touched my heart this morning and made me tear up. This could have been my mother feeding my father who had Parkinson’s disease. He passed away in 2007 and my mother in 2001. They were married 52 years. True love never dies. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  17. Joseph Summers - June 7, 2019 2:26 pm

    True covenant relationship. What a great story to start a rainy Friday in AL. Can’t wait to go home and kiss my wife and tell her how much I love her (I’m almost a decade older than her. She’s a marathoner. I’m not. I’ll likely be dependent upon her at some point if the Lord lets me live long enough).

    Reply
  18. BeBlue - June 7, 2019 2:51 pm

    Truth. Shared with a cancer patient/caregiver organization I volunteer with.

    Reply
  19. Linda Moon - June 7, 2019 2:57 pm

    My 53 years of good and bad days and a promise kept is worthy of your descriptive words of LOVE and commitment. I hope you and Jamie have 53 years, or until that final parting. We might run into you two at a Cracker Barrel. You’ll recognize us if you look for an older man playing with the triangle game that he often challenges a ginger-head grandson with. Guess who usually wins….hint: older and former ginger-head.

    Reply
  20. Pat - June 7, 2019 2:58 pm

    Thank you for a wonderful story…

    Reply
  21. Ken Grady - June 7, 2019 3:45 pm

    That story will bless your heart to see. Thank you.

    Reply
  22. Janie F. - June 7, 2019 5:06 pm

    BEAUTIFUL 😢

    Reply
  23. Martin Belcher - June 7, 2019 5:17 pm

    It would not be surprising to image him 75 years ago in uniform , doing his duty, returning home, raising a family ,selflessly sacrificing for their betterment, and all without expectation of praise or comment. Would to God those virtues and commitments were present, as common behavior, in our present society.

    Reply
  24. Laurie Ann Wasilewski - June 7, 2019 5:50 pm

    Such a beautiful and tear inducing story, Sean. Thank you!

    Reply
  25. Connie Havard Ryland - June 7, 2019 10:56 pm

    I read this with many tears today. We buried my ex mother in law today. She was 88, and her husband of 73 years was inconsolable. For the past year he has waited on her hand and foot. Helped her to the bathroom, changed her clothes, fed her and toted to her. I’m not sure how he will do without her. But his devotion to her was unquestionably the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. He will be 90 in December if we are blessed to have him that long, but his world will never be the same. Beautiful column today.

    Reply
    • Jack Darnell - June 7, 2019 11:45 pm

      I like this connie. We have been married 62+ years now and in good health, but I know we would do, or try to do as the gentleman you write about. Thanks.
      Sherry & jack

      Reply
  26. Jack Darnell - June 7, 2019 11:48 pm

    I am sure my wife would feed me in public. Not sure if she would allow me to do that for her, women have an independent streak, even after 62+ years if marriage. LOL
    I did appreciate the post. Good one.
    Try to be good your own self.
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  27. Jo Bamberg Cooper - June 8, 2019 2:21 am

    Thank you for taking this heart felt view of this couple
    Believe me, commitment and love go a long way together.
    I only hope others saw this rather than pitying them or shaking their
    heads at them….You gotta do what you gotta do and they are doing it!
    Some day you (all you) may be in this situation.

    Reply
  28. Carol Heidbreder - June 8, 2019 2:45 am

    Whew! I’ve been there! Miss him every day! Would do it all again too! That’s the definition of love and loyalty no matter what. Thank you so for this beautiful story.

    Reply
  29. Edy F Holmes - June 11, 2019 12:35 am

    true love

    Reply
  30. Kathryn - July 8, 2019 12:12 pm

    Reminds me of my mom. My daddy was diagnosed with some horrible disease no one had ever heard of at 61. After months of doctors visits, referrals, going back and forth to Shands, he finally fell into a “vegetative state,” and the hospital said there was nothing else they could do, that my mama needed to put him in hospice and wait. She said, “no,” called a medical supply company, had a hospital bed and all kinds of equipment delivered to her house, arranged for a nurse to come for a few hours 3 times a week so she could go to the grocery store and do needed errands. For 6 months Mama slept in the same room with my daddy, took care of all his needs, including turning him every 3 hours, which meant she never slept more than 3 hours at a time, until he quietly passed away. That was the most profound expression of love I have ever witnessed.

    Their generation understood the meaning of, “til death do us part.”

    Reply
  31. Sam Seetin - July 8, 2019 7:18 pm

    If loyalty had a smell it would have refreshed the hormone smell in the dinning room from 50 millennial kids in puberty some of whom one day hopefully truly will appreciate those who take their marriage vows seriously.
    Well done Sean.

    Reply

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