In 46 Years

Maria - Fort Meade, Maryland
Entered on April 27, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I’m sitting at a little booth for 2 this morning, enjoying my coffee, and I notice to my right is a good looking elderly couple. I notice the wife when I overhear her order oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins. The husband has the voice of James Earl Jones, but can speak so softly that even I can’t hear him from 6 feet away. But his wife can, and she is laughing a lot as they dialogue. They’re dressed up like they’re celebrating something.

To my left, across the small wall dividing my booth from another, an older woman is sitting with a blue-tooth in her ear. She’s reading and alone. I think about how that phone piece is just sitting in her ear without her really using it. I wonder if her ear ever gets sore.

The couple to my right has finished ordering. I put down my Sudoku and pay attention to the busy world around me. My waitress is from NY, Queens to be exact. She’s skinny, too skinny, middle aged – should be home pouring coffee for her family, enjoying her grandchildren, rather than pouring coffee and doting on strangers. Then I can’t help but listen to “James” as he says to his wife, “It’s been 46 years. All the way back since we were 16.” She hums in smiling agreement. I am intrigued and try not to act like I’m listening. But really I just want to scoot over into their booth for 2 and say, “Tell me about your journey being together that long.” My breakfast comes and the wife starts telling a story. “Remember that time we slept all day? We were so tired!” She doesn’t specify a date, but they both know that day out of 16,790 other ones they’ve been together. She starts laughing again. James says something very quietly and she laughs harder. He may have said something sexy. It may have been silly. But he touched her with about 3 – 4 words of recollection and that’s all they needed. Their connection remained fresh, available, intimate, joyful, powerfully and intentionally eye-to-eye. It made other couples look like the arduous effort to stay together through old age had weathered them too far, and now they just exist together. And that may be a different marriage story, but not the one I would want to tell per se.

You hear people talking about how they saw their lives flash before them during a traumatic event, like a car accident. But have you ever had your life pass before you when it wasn’t traumatic? I mean a time in life when you witness an unconscious dream you have, manifest in the accomplishment of someone else’s life, and you realize that’s what you want 20 – 50 years from now no matter what else happens in your life. The couple next to me was that epiphany this morning. If I could fast forward, I know I want to be in Double TT diner, in my same booth, 50-some years from now, laughing at life’s goodness in retrospect of the choices I made in love with the person sitting across from me.

The lady to my left never got a phone call. It seemed sad to me, the wearing of an uncalled phone service for over an hour. The desire for connection unmet, unbeckoned. I looked around the room again and noticed a few others who wear their blue tooth like jewelry. It says to me, “I want to be connected” to the outside world.