In a couple of days, I will have another birthday. (This is not a shameless plea for Happy Birthday wishes.) There comes a time when, no matter how much I tell myself “I don’t feel old,” that I must admit, I AM OLD. Old has happened. It has arrived. I am officially a card-carrying member of old. And in many ways, old ain’t easy, let me tell you.
It’s not that I can’t do the things I did when I was younger so much as it is, they just take a lot more effort. I run some with Jacob now and it takes so much energy to make my muscles put one foot in front of the other. I read a good book in the morning but it takes work to focus on the words on the page and the thoughts in my head. I remember the names of my grandkids, but it takes effort to get the right name out at the right time. (Whoever thought Josh, Jacob, Jennifer, Jon-Mical, and Jakson was a good idea should be shot. Thank God for Allison and Caleb!)
When we get old, we have to work a little harder at some things, many things, well, alright, EVERYTHING. One of those things is my relationship with my wife. No, you are not going to have to hear some salacious sentiments about our “special time.” (Josh, Jacob, Jennifer, Jon-MIcal, and Jakson just threw up in their mouths a little bit.) But I do want to remind you that even that, perhaps the “oldest” relationship you have in your life, takes more work and effort as the years pass. And, if you are not there yet, you will be someday.
If you know my story, you know that I have not always been the easiest of husbands to live with. Doris is my all-time greatest hero because of the grace and forgiveness that she has demonstrated. But for the last 17 years or so, God has blessed us with a joy for each other and a connection to each other (through Him) that has been more than I ever imagined a marriage relationship could be. I am not suggesting here that we have it all figured out, that we are perfect examples of how you should do life with your partner. I am saying that God can and has placed in our hearts a love for each other that only can be attributed to Him, even after our failures, fallings, and fouling things up. BUT IT TAKES WORK.
So today, rather than some deep, profound diatribe on how to make the world a better place, I thought I’d share a light little ditty on the single most significant secret that we have found in our 42 years of marriage to keep the love alive. Here it is. Are you ready? This is going to be amazing. I am so excited to tell you. For $49.99 we will send this secret to you in a plain brown paper package….Oh, just shut up and tell the secret. WE STILL HOLD HANDS. That’s it. That’s the big surprise. That’s the million dollar message. After all of these years, we still hold hands. On purpose. Intentionally. Make a point to.
The other day we were walking from the barn to the cabin at the Funny Farm, Chonda’s place in the woods, and it dawned on me, as Doris was at my side, we still hold hands. After all of these years, after all I have put her through, after all of the ups and downs and messes and mistakes, we still, automatically, reach for each other, clasp our fingers together and hold hands. There is something about that single, simple act, that speaks volumes about where we have been, where we are, and where we are going in our relationship, even as two old people.
When Doris takes my hand, she is saying to me, “I’m still here. After all your bonehead choices, after the dumb things you have said, after the misunderstandings and the disagreements, I am still here and I am not going anywhere.” When I reach out for her tiny little five-fingered fist, I am saying, “I am still drawn to you. Your touch is important to me. There is no place I’d rather be or nobody I’d rather be with than you.” The act of holding hands is a rehearsal of a life-long series of commitments and recommitments and reminder that we are still for each other. And it’s easy.
And it’s not. Sometimes we don’t want to. Sometimes the disagreement was a little more intense that usual. It is especially at those times that the hand-holding deal comes into play. Honestly, the moment of reaching for one another, even when it is hard to do, has spoken volumes about forgiveness, acceptance, love. To be willing to offer and accept the hand of the other has taken us through a lot of times when we otherwise, might have given up. We still hold hands.
Well, if holding hands matters, then here are three times when it seems to matter most. We hold hands when we are in public. There is something about me testifying to God and the people at Kroger’s that this woman is with me and I want to be identified with her. Holding hands lets all of the other would-be suitors (and there are thousands, HA,HA,HA,HA. That is funny right there.) that we are “taken” and no one else can intrude or interfere with this relationship.
We hold hands in private. It is important for me to say to her, this is not about show or performance, I am truly smitten (there’s a good word) by you. Right here, right now, while no one else is looking, you matter to me more than anything else.
And finally, we hold hands when we pray. We begin the day by holding hands and praying. We reach across the table at each meal. We reach for one another in church (except when she is playing the piano. We pray and we hold hands and we affirm to God and to one another that this is a three-fold relationship.
So that’s the big secret. That’s the secret recipe. We make it a point to grasp one another, even in this advanced old age of ours, and in so doing reestablish and reaffirm the promises that we have made to God and to each other. And to steady ourselves because walking is not as easy as it used to be. 😊
I know this blog is a little different from most that I write but it seemed to be the thing today. Maybe you need to be reminded. Maybe you need to go in the other room and take her hand right now. Maybe you need to “say” with this gesture, “We are still for each other. And we can still hold hands.”