I was sitting in the waiting room of my health care provider the other day watching a mother read “Things that Go!” to her young child. Seven times. And the laughter in both of their voices. Seven times. The excitement of the child when they reached their favorite train. Seven times.
The pure joy in the eyes of the mother–she will never forget a single syllable of that book. Ever. And in the eyes of the child and the way that they hung on her every word. Not because the book was special. It was all about the moment. In that perfectly imperfect and far too rare and fleeting slice of time they shared, each understood just how much the other loved them.
I watched another couple in their twilight years. If you listened, and it was hard not to, he hated everything about her, always had, always would. She despised that he hated, and despised him as well, no even more so. But if you didn’t listen to the words, if you just watched, you saw a depth of affection that words could neither convey nor dampen.
A third couple, military veterans, seated at the end of a row. He was Navy, she Army. Army briefly stepped away to thank the Disabled American Veterans driver that brought them to the clinic. She returned to a stream of vitriol from her sailor. His words rained anger, betrayal, nervous fear, finally sorrow and apology. Then silence. She took a deep breath, gently pried his clenched left hand from the armrest and cupped it in both of her hands.
“How long have you two been together?” someone finally asked. Army replied softly but proudly.
“Eighteen years.” There were nods from us, knowing looks from others, and a squeeze of Navy’s left hand from Army as she continued “Just not to each other.”
Army looked up at us with a smile that ran ear to chin to ear, gave an ‘oh no, no, no, I wouldn’t have him and he wouldn’t have me’ shake of her head.
“I’ve my husband,” she glanced at her wedding ring while squeezing Navy’s hand yet again “he’s got a wife of his own.”
Navy looked up at her as if seeing her for the very first time. Appreciation chased recognition quickly across his face. He squeezed her hand in return. Hard. Then he smiled for the first, the only time that morning. His smile stretched from a moment eighteen years in the past right up to the present. To tears from Army as she proudly announced,
“I’m his Medic, you see.”
Veterans Day in the United States is Monday, November 11. Originally called Armistice Day, it marked the end of hostilities in the First World War. Many Commonwealth of Nations members now refer to it as Remembrance Day and honor those who served, living or fallen.
We colonials honor our fallen comrades in May on a Memorial Day that began shortly after the American Civil War. It was initially called Decoration Day. Chances are if you run into me on either day, I’ll be sporting a poppy.
Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. This year the 100th anniversary of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Thank you, each and every one of you, be you corpsmen, medics, paramedics, first responders, or volunteers. Generations are alive today because of you.