Hope. Dances.

My heart is square dancing today because I met Nana Faye and Uncle Elmer Castor. Elmer like the glue. Castor like the oil. I just have to share the sheer joy of getting to sit next to a couple of senior citizens so in love the glow bounced right off them into my heart.

They gave me permission to share their story because I suspect it will make you want to jump up and dance just like it did me.  We exchanged phone numbers and addresses, and they might not read this blog like you are right now because 91 and 88 year old eyes might enjoy reading it the old fashioned way, on clean white paper, 16 point type and sent through the US Postal System. I picture them glad for the mail, because getting old can be a lonely thing, and you can bet they’ll get a copy and a call from me, I know when I’ve touched gold.

But until then I’ll tell the story with electronic impulses, because it doesn’t really matter what generation you are born, the heart of everyone walking this planet is looking for one single thing. To be loved and to love. Truly loved and to truly love.

And Faye and Elmer have found that with one another. Not without a fight, not without having to hold out hope when it must have seemed like a pretty silly notion. But they held out. And when they found it they knew what we all should remember. Hold it close to your heart, cherish it and lord, don’t waste time fighting, especially when you are headed to bed for the night.

They have been married for 43 years and swear they’ve never had a fight, never laid down with a grudge and a question about the perfect placement of the body next to them. That wasn’t always the case for either of them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I saw them disagree over a detail or a fact as they shared their life stories with me on the flight from San Francisco to San Diego. But what I noticed most was they didn’t seem to have to be RIGHT. When she would lapse and forget a word, he supplied it with ease, so they made one single voice, like fabric with complimentary colors that pleases the senses. Separate but united.

Faye has a way of turning from 91 to a charming young woman with a quick downward tilt of her head, upturn of her mouth and downward flap of her lashes.  In fact, when I asked how they met, she started the story but then stopped and said, “You tell it so well Elmer, you go ahead.”

They were born in the depression in Oklahoma. Right where my own story started, Texans today, Californians most their life, but here I am an Okie that is sitting next to some Okie born folks. No mistaking it was exactly where I belonged.

Faye headed to California as a young woman to pick cotton and get rich, with a giggle she said neither happened, but really it was to marry a man that wasn’t kind, and to leave a family so strict she wanted freedom. Those days most likely many a woman jumped from one cage to another. Choices were more limited then, and it is easy to see how a girl would think a man might be the best next thing.

She had kids she loved with this starter husband. Today the “girls” are senior citizens themselves. Faye tried to honor her childhood teachings, and gave that marriage a good long run, I forget the exact number of years but it was more than 30 years of expecting a man who just couldn’t love her to stay home and not stray. She even forgave him having a baby with another woman while they were married.

Something she and Elmer have in common. They both forgave, and forgave their first mates through all kinds of acts of unkindness. Maybe they were practicing so when they found one another they’d already know how to be faithful, forgiving and kind.

Finally, she had all she could swallow and let go of a man that didn’t love her and a man she didn’t love back. Loving someone that treats you with disrespect and cruelty is just a waste of a precious life.

And so did Elmer. He had offered to raise the baby his ex-wife made with another man, and even asked her what she needed from marriage. She told him she needed stability, and somehow she mixed up an alcoholic second husband as the face of dependability. Lord rests her soul and may she know peace.

So, around the same time Elmer and Faye found themselves single again as middle-aged folks with five kids between them. I can’t imagine how much courage it took to do the thing that people just didn’t do those many decades ago…get a divorce.

A friend that worked with Faye knew Elmer too, and suggested they go square dancing together. Well, they danced, until 1:00am in the morning. From that night forward they were a pair and never apart. They are still dancing together today. Oh, they can’t cut a rug with their bodies, and that is frustrating for them both, because the spirit is willing, but the legs are a little weak.

They were on a plane, because they took care of a little girl from six months to five years old decades ago while her parents worked and when gone on trips. That little girl is grown up today, but she still loves Nana Faye and Uncle Elmer. She just got married in San Francisco this weekend. She called them and asked them to come to the wedding, and Elmer wasn’t sure he could. But she insisted, and made all the arrangements, got them tickets, and the airlines provided a wheelchair ride from one plane to another. Their church family back home will pick them up when they get back to Texas.

Here is how big these two hearts are. Elmer was asked to stand up right beside that girls father. He told me with great pride that he was able to manage to stand up on his unstable legs and proudly join in when the preacher asked who was giving that girl away.

I know why they asked Uncle Elmer and Nana Faye to come to the wedding. It’s the kind of marriage we all yearn to live inside. What a good luck charm, and I wish them well and bet they will do just fine. They learned from the best.

I was on that plane for three good reasons, and Elmer and Faye are my real-to-life reminders of those good reasons.

I was headed to visit my bonus-daughter, newly minted from Kelly Green to Kelly Kootman, and her first-best-ever husband Dave. I had just left the warm cozy glow of being with a couple that have 35 years of rock-solid love between them, my sister Dee Ann and brother-in-law David, and the trip was made possible because I love and am loved by my own soul mate.

My first marriage was different than Faye and Elmer.  Wayne was a great guy, and his death can make me cry on a dime to this day. He left behind a space big enough to fill with a second love, and he left Kelly for her mother and I to rejoice in calling our own, and a fine son we fashioned together.

But like Elmer and Faye, I got a second chance at big love. I can’t say Jim and I never fight, sometimes even when we lay down at night I can hold a grudge or nurture a hurt feeling, I’ve got some learning to do. Until then, I can tell you I have a renewed dedication to applying their formula from here until 90 and beyond, because that is how long I want to be with Jim, holding his hand and telling some younger couple that hope dances.

Here is my big take away and what I want to practice from this day forward, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health. Until death do we part, which I hope is 43 and counting years away.

Elmer and Faye wisdom.

If you are living with your soul mate, don’t go to bed mad. Let them have a different way of telling a story without having to be RIGHT. Be delighted in their very presence. Hold hands and hug. Laugh and listen with respect. Let your pride in them show. Be faithful and kind. And let everyone you know how happy you are to have this wonderful person to twirl your heart and spin your days into golden years.

If you haven’t found a soul mate, and you want one. Let Elmer and Faye be your guide. If you are not in a relationship where you truly love and are loved, then it might even be necessary to take a big leap of faith. Because we learned from them that we just don’t know when our own true love will appear, it might seem like forever before they arrive.

But when they do, put on your dancing shoes.

And don’t even think about putting up a fight.


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