Last week at the Mayo Clinic, while John was getting his yearly post-transplant check-up, I walked around the campus drinking coffee, sat in waiting rooms flipping through dog-eared copies of Home Magazine and played Scrabble on my Kindle.
I also observed the people.
It’s no surprise that Rochester, Minnesota is full of older people. Some are there for annual check-ups, others are having that lump looked at, still others are dealing with much bigger issues. One afternoon, while I stood near the entrance of the Kahler Hotel across from the Clinic, sipping my Starbucks and warming my face in a sliver of sunlight sneaking between the tall buildings, an older couple arrived in a cab.
At first glance I could tell these two had been together a long time. After the driver deposited their single bag on the curb and left, the man looked at his wife and smiled. They were there for a visit to the Clinic. But they didn’t rush in to the hotel lobby right away. Instead, she looked up at the glassy Mayo Building and sighed. He followed her gaze, perhaps thinking about the early blood test in the morning that either she or he would endure. Maybe they were both wondering what the doctors would find. This might be the eve of a pivotal moment in their lives.
“You okay Ma?” He took his hand from the luggage handle and reached out for hers.
“Oh sure,” she nodded. But she didn’t smile.
“You sure gal?”
Now she smiled. A lifetime of understanding passed between the two.
I searched the ground for a private piece of curbside to look at, suddenly feeling like an intruder. I backed a little to the left, still keeping my face in the sun and sipped my coffee, trying to look anonymous. I was enthralled.
The couple could have been my grandparents, who celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary a few years ago before they both passed away. 75 years together. Can you imagine that? They’d been through a lifetime together.
The woman took his hand. “I’ll be okay,” she said. “As long as I’ve got you.”
I looked away. The couple stepped forward and the automatic doors of the hotel swooshed open and swallowed them.
I wanted to follow them and give them a high five. Way to stick it out. Way to stand together against the worst that life has thrown you. Way to make it this far.
I hope their check-ups went well, that the doctors didn’t find anything too alarming in their blood work. I hope they’ve now returned to their lives.
Perhaps I admire older couples because I hope that John and I will be an older couple someday. I hope that we both live that long. Someday if I have to face a scary appointment, John will be there to hold my hand and give me a high-five when we get through the worst of it together.