Something to Believe In

When I woke up this morning on my eleven year wedding anniversary, I never thought I would spend half the day on a wild goose chase in a hardware store.  After missing the first half of Charlie's soccer game because I forgot that we were on a different field at a different time, another parent was nice enough to text and ask, "Is Charlie coming?" Pulling Charlie's sheets off her and quietly yelling: "We are late for your soccer game.." Charlie sleepwalked into my car and off we sped to the field. Meanwhile, being that it was my wedding anniversary, Bryan had snuck off to Save Mart to purchase a card and left his phone at home.

After finding us at the game, and bringing me an anniversary latte, I realized I left my phone at home so I had no communication with Bryan or Charlie..  this phone thing is another story.

As I drove away I felt a strange sense of freedom; no phone, no kid, no husband, only a wallet.  Minutes later, I stood in the middle of Emigh hardware smiling at strangers and enjoying the Saturday morning crowd of pumpkin carvers outside.

I don't really know what happened next except that I noticed an older couple walking together holding hands down the middle of an aisle. She was bent over, but he stood tall. They navigated the store like teenagers on the hunt for candy, and yet they most obviously were in their later and greater years. Something struck me like lighting and I dove through my bag for my phone. No phone. No camera to record this moment.. only my memory. I stood there frozen but mesmerized when I noticed another lone woman in the aisle with me. Looking into her eyes, I said, " I can't believe what I just saw."

Now I ask you, who on God's Earth would actually care what I meant? Who would even look at me as if they had nothing but eternal time to spend talking to me in my pajamas in a hardware store? I stopped and there she was,  standing serenely in her purple knit cap and loose long stockings with a wry smile escaping her as I said, "Did you see that couple holding hands?"  She patiently listened as I related my desire to find the couple holding hands, and she said that as a good Christian she wanted to help me. Insisting that we search the store, she took the left side and I flanked her looking up and down each aisle as if it were a military operation. We checked the nursery, the key room, the check stands, the parking lot and circled around all the time she kept saying, " They can't have gotten far.." I gave up but wondered why this stranger insisted on finding the eternal couple.

There is no explanation for the determination of my new ally. We knew nothing of each other, except that we both believed in something today. She found them in the parking lot and yelled to me as she gave me her phone which she didn't know how to use to take their photo. As she patiently waited, I ran to the couple and said.. "Excuse me!! May I take your photo?" There was not even an element of surprise as they turned to me and held each other and said "Yes." They asked no questions, so I did. "I saw you holding hands in the store and I wanted to capture the moment.. may I ask your names?" "Dallas and Linda," they said in unison. In my pajamas in the parking lot, with a stranger's phone I took their photo. I said, "It's my eleven year wedding anniversary today, and I saw you holding hands, and I want to know.. what's your secret?"

Time stopped. One of them said, "Don't fight" The other one said, "Don't fight." I looked at them.. thought of my husband and said, "How?" Linda looked at me through her steely blue eyes and even slightly bent over she commanded, "Just walk away, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans what you have to say, but it stays with you forever." 

Again, thinking of my husband I said, "Well how long did it take you to learn this?" And she looked up and said, "We've both been married twice before and we knew when we married each other not to fight.. it's not worth it."  Now, forty years later, they stood in a parking lot of the hardware store with a stranger. She told me she is getting dementia, and as he stood holding a box of flowers, I admired them more than any couple I have met before. In a fog I walked away almost forgetting that another stranger was waiting by the outdoor plants to share our victory, the photos and our story.

Finally, we had a moment to introduce ourselves even though I knew I would never forget her. My anonymous beautiful stranger is Yolanda.  Yolanda is no longer a stranger in the hardware store, she is an angel standing by. She is the reason I have the answers to what I needed to know.

My husband and I had a great anniversary. I never imagined eleven years ago at our wedding with our daughter looking on that I would be here. If someone chases me down in a parking lot of a hardware store I will tell them, marriage is a choice, an opportunity, a gift, and most importantly..  don't fight.