Continued from, "A Warrior's Album - Part 1"
I graduated college, worked various jobs, and found myself climbing the corporate ladder on an executive track. By anyone's assessment I was successful. I was moving up quickly in a burgeoning career, had a big house in a nice neighborhood, two cars in the garage, more money in the bank than I was able to spend. I had gotten married in there somewhere, but later divorced, in part because of the career. I was set to retire early at age 50 with about $2.5 million in the IRA.
I had all the trappings of success, but at the end of the 12-hour work day I came home to my big house to be greeted only by my lonely doggy. What good is a big house if you never have time to spend in it??? The only person who cared whether I came home or not was the doggy, and she didn't care if we lived in a big house or not. I started getting a gut feeling that this was not the way my life was supposed to be, but I could not see a clear alternate path to change it.
As part of my job I had to get an executive physical every three years. I guess the company wanted to make sure they were investing in healthy individuals. As part of the exam I had to get a hearing test. This was not one of the quickie hearing screens where you put on the earphones and the nurse asks, "Can you hear the beep" in a noisy doctor's office hallway. This was to be a full-fledged hearing test in a soundproof room at an audiologist's clinic.
As I sat in the large bustling waiting room, I was afforded a few moments of downtime. I began reflecting on my life and what I wanted out of it. There in the audiologist's waiting room, I experienced another profound, life-altering moment of clarity.
THE OLD DEAF COUPLE
I noticed them struggling with the double glass doors leading to the waiting room. They were in their late eighties or early nineties and the door was a little more than they could manage alone. Both were shrunken and stooped with age, their height barely above the push bar on the door.
He was dressed in a suit and tie even though it was well over 95 degrees outside. She was wearing her best dress and carrying a large, patent leather, Sunday-go-to-meetin' purse. A used tissue was under the wristband of her watch. It was obvious they had been married about a hunnert years.
They were yelling at each other, but not out of anger. He was deaf as a stone. I could see the wires leading from his hearing aids down to the receiver in his shirt pocket. She was yelling at him because he couldn't hear her, and he was yelling at her because he couldn't hear himself.
He managed to get the door open and was holding it for her.
"LET ME HOLD YOUR POCKETBOOK," he yells at her so she could free her hands to maintain her balance around the other door and over the threshold.
"NO, I HAVE IT. YOU GO ON AHEAD." she yells back.
They managed to navigate the doorway obstacle and shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffled over to the first set of chairs.
"IS HERE OK?" he yells.
"YES THIS IS FINE."
"YOU GO AHEAD AND SIT DOWN AND I'LL GO CHECK IN."
"NO, I NEED TO GIVE THEM SOME PAPERWORK THIS TIME," says she.
"Eh???" he says cupping his ear.
"PAPERWORK! PAPERWORK!" she screams. "YOU SIT AND I'LL GO."
"SIT, SIT, SIT. I'LL GO."
He takes a seeming eternity to get his knees bent just right to sit down. He eases down in the chair with her hovering over him, concerned. He finally gets planted and lets out a sigh.
"ARE YOU OK???" she yells a few inches from his ear.
"YES, YES, I'M FINE, I'M FINE."
Another big sigh. Then he looks up a bit worried, "ARE YOU SURE YOU SHOULD GO? I CAN GO SO YOU CAN REST," and starts making motions to stand up again.
"NO, HONEY, IT'S OK, IT'S OK. I'LL GO. HERE, YOU CAN HOLD MY POCKETBOOK."
He sighs back into the chair.
She sets her purse in his lap and makes sure he has a good grip on it. She wipes her palm across his forehead to smooth his few remaining hairs and to wipe away the sweat from his exertions. She takes the tissue from her watchband, licks the corner, and wipes something unseen from his cheek.
Tucking the tissue back in its place, she turns and shuffle, shuffle, shuffles, shuffle, shuffles away, leaving him sitting there clutching her purse.
This elderly couple's interaction on an ordinary day, on an ordinary visit at the doctor's office, was a profound event for me. I realized the care and tenderness they showed to each other was what I really wanted in life; not the money, not the career, and not the possessions.
I wanted to be changing my husband's Depends right after he helps me up from a fall in the kitchen. I wanted to be shuffle, shuffle, shuffling out to the porch each evening to catch a cool breeze in the rocking chairs. I no longer wanted to be in the !%*@& corporate world dying of a heart attack at my desk with no one at home to care but the doggy. All I needed was the right man to do that with...and I knew just where to find him.
My life's path was irreversibly altered that day. All I had worked for, all my goals, all my hopes, all my dreams, were reduced to ashes.