She is slightly overdressed for this place. They walk into the cheap Mexican restaurant and stick out.
She’s wearing a blue blouse, blue flats. He’s wearing khakis. They have matching white hair.
He has a nasty cough.
This place is busy, the hostess leads them to the bar while they wait for a table.
The walk is a short one. They make it arm in arm. She orders wine. Him: beer.
They don’t say much. They’re both watching the television above bar. Soccer is on.
“I don’t understand this sport,” he tells me, and he talks like a jar of Karo syrup.
I say something to him. He courtesy-laughs, which leads to a coughing fit. He holds a hanky over his mouth.
“We ONLY watch football,” his wife says, leaning forward while he coughs.
The conversational ice is broken. We talk.
Well—rather, she talks. I listen and say things like: “hmm,” and, “oh, how wonderful,” and “yes ma’am, I hear it’s lovely this time of year.”
She’s a flower. In our brief time together, I learn they have three kids, they are Presbyterians, he is an Auburn fan, she is not. She is as friendly as a politician.
“You live here?” she asks.
“No ma’am, just here for the night.”
“Us too, we’re on our way to Birmingham.”
He’s still coughing. Hard. He stands and leaves for the restroom.
When he’s gone, she tells me, “He’s having surgery in two days.” She points to her chest when she says it.
“It’s his second one,” she goes on. “Say a prayer for him. We’re taking all the prayers we can get.”
I yes-ma’am her.
She’s a cheery little thing.
The hostess calls them, I tell her it was lovely meeting her.
The old man offers her an elbow, they hook arms like it’s nineteen fifty-one. He slides out her chair for her. She sits erect, then places a napkin in her lap.
Emily Post, eat your heart out.
They talk. They laugh. They order food. Lots of smiling. They look outstanding together.
The waiter brings steaming skillets of Tex-Mex fare. They eat slow. They smile some more. She gets a refill on her wine.
He is overcome. It hits him out of nowhere. He coughs so hard he draws the attention of the restaurant.
There is no dignified way to cough.
He apologizes. She tells him not to. He does anyway. Then, he starts hacking so hard his face turns purple.
She wipes his chin with her napkin. He can’t stop. He’s almost gagging. Everyone stares.
He stands and shuffles toward the door, yakking into a handkerchief.
She asks for the bill. She pays with a card. She smiles at everyone who is watching her. She smiles at me. God love her.
She exits with the grace of a woman thirty years her junior. Her wine is left untouched. Her plate, half-eaten. I can’t help but think it’s going to be a very long night, and an even longer year.
And I just thought you should know about her.
Beckie Johnson - May 2, 2017 4:24 pm
So timely. My husband got a cancer diagnosis yesterday. We are still in shock and living on the prayers of family and friends. One of the things we already decided is to enjoy every day we have together as long as possible, just as this couple is doing! Thank you, Sean! Beckie Johnson, Dahlonega, Ga
gerald dowling - May 9, 2017 1:56 pm
Becky, saying a prayer for your husband. Got my diagnosis in 2015. Shock’s automatic. The good news is “God’s in charge and aint ready for us yet, or we would already to be gone.”
He’s got a plan; we just have to figure out what our part is, which path to follow. God’s in charge, its his timetable. My Granddaddy warned me about going barefooted in the chicken yard when I was a little boy. Chicken poo between your toes distract you. Cancer is a distraction that would love to keep us occupied, missing Nature’s beauty, the smiles on our loved ones faces.
Lynda Gayle Knight - May 2, 2017 4:36 pm
I loved reading this because people need to know true love still exists and marriages can survive with love and understanding and probably most importantly, realizing it takes a lot of work and compromise to make it work! Good writing with no preaching.
Joyce Gruschow - May 2, 2017 4:43 pm
Thank you for sharing, we too have had loved ones to go through cancer battles. My prayers are with them.
Jeannie - May 2, 2017 4:47 pm
I am praying for these 2 wonderful people. It is hard to be a caretaker for someone that you love and I am sure that it is hard for him to be so sick and for her to have to watch the demise of someone you love. These are real people living real lives. They are the ones that need to be represented in the media. Thank you for doing that!
Anne-Marie - May 2, 2017 5:02 pm
And now I’m glad we do know about her. I’ll add her and her husband to my prayers. You’re a blessing to us all, Sean. I hope you know that.
Kathy Lane - May 2, 2017 5:06 pm
People have no idea the impact (good or bad) they have on others. Even in a brief incounter you can make such an impression. I’ll be saying a prayer for the gentleman and his wife. Thanks for sharing.
Mary Pettit - May 2, 2017 5:13 pm
This could have been my mom and dad before he passed. Thank you. I will pray for them.
Cenessa - May 2, 2017 5:16 pm
Saying a prayer for them.God knows who they are and what they need. Amen
Venessa - May 2, 2017 5:18 pm
God knows who they are and what they need from. God bless them.
Venessa - May 2, 2017 5:19 pm
God knows their every need. Please answer their prayers
Buck Godwin - May 2, 2017 5:43 pm
You sure do meet up with a lot of good folks of faith in the Deep South don’t ya?
Some day some young writer may meet up with you in one of those sweet tea places and I think he might write about
prayer and the faith of a silver haired old boy called Sean.
I love you young fella!
Bobbie - May 2, 2017 8:03 pm
They’re for sure gonna be in my thoughts and prayers.
Willie - May 2, 2017 11:37 pm
Good , Sean.
Melissa Armstrong - May 3, 2017 12:03 am
Very touching. Sounds a lot like a couple from my hometown. Brought back lovely memories. Thank you Shawn for sharing and please keep writing!
Melissa Armstrong - May 3, 2017 12:05 am
Sean… sorry I spelled your name incorrectly…..??♀️
Suzanne Rainey - May 3, 2017 12:06 am
And I will pray for this dear couple.???
Bobby Hamil - May 3, 2017 2:07 am
I have a good friend who confided in me several months ago that he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers. I was shocked and saddened. He is mid 50s and he and his wife have two young adopted daughters and all are very active in church , school and sports. He had to take disability retirement from a good job and can no longer drive. However they are handling all with grace and dignity. I am in awe of how God is working through this family to keep them strong during this difficult time that will not get better. It makes my occasional ailments just minor speed bumps on life’s highway in comparison.
Lilli Ann Snow - May 3, 2017 11:34 am
Now this woman and her husband are surrounded by prayer.
Your chance meeting became the first cloth in a prayer flag that we “Sean of the South” family will lift into the sky today and in days to come.
We care about two people we never would have met.
We pray for them both.
You are why.
Buck Godwin - May 3, 2017 2:26 pm
Has anyone else noticed that the longer a marriage lasts, the happier it gets?
Lois Young - May 3, 2017 11:01 pm
Thank you for this. Made me happy and sad at the same time. Great writing can do that. Sending prayers for this couple.
Kim Tillman - May 4, 2017 4:51 pm
I am in tears! I want to meet her…and I want him to live…
Anne Trawick - May 6, 2017 12:09 am
Sean, I said a prayer for them as soon as I read this. I believe in miracles. Keep writing. Good writers appeal to one’s intellect. Great writers appeal to the intellect and the heart.
Annette Bailey - June 25, 2017 1:33 pm
I pray good things for this couple. We got Mom’s cancer diagnosis 2 years ago. It’s been so hard lately but Mom has not complained even once. I can’t stress enough how she never complains but all of us are grateful and thankful. Some have it worse than she and even then, I can’t imagine. The longer my husband and I are together, the more we love one another…if that’s possible for we only have one another. I thank God every minute with him too! I will be thinking about this couple and pray the best for them. Thank you Sean for making all of us realize that life is too short to “sweat the small stuff”!
Deanna J - June 25, 2017 1:38 pm
Praying! Bless you Sean!
G.mitchell - June 25, 2017 3:45 pm
Blessings and prayers to all. May this lovely couple still have many years ahead
Mary Anne Tomlinson - June 25, 2017 4:02 pm
Bless you, Sean, for your caring heart. Prayers for this couple.