I was watching the movie Notting Hill the other day. Total chick flick. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, I always get weepy at the end. There’s a scene where Julia Roberts gives Hugh Grant a painting. She says something about how it makes here think about what love feels like.
We all have our own ideas about what love feels like. Maybe it’s a touch on the back of the neck. Or the warmth of a hand in yours. But what does love look like? And how does that change over a lifetime?
There is one day I clearly recall being in the presence of a lifetime of love. I was coming home from work on the bus after a tragically ordinary day. The ride held nothing unusual and I took on my usual mass transit demeanor; I sat staring out the window, blocking out the noise and people around me. It must have been early spring because I remember being weighed down by the heaviness of my sweater and coat and the light fading early, long before I got home.
To gaze out the window facing me on the other side of the bus, I had to stare though an elderly couple that occupied the seats in front of it. I paid them no mind. To be truthful, I was oblivious to them until they signaled for the bus to stop. Hearing the ringing of the bell, I looked at the hand that slowly lowered to resume its place in the woman’s lap.
As the bus pulled up to the corner, the couple raised themselves from the seats. Once the doors opened, it took them a few moments to descend the steps. She exited the bus before he did and as he navigated those three steps, he practiced a routine that must have been familiar to him. Grab the rail, place the cane on the step, lower one foot, lower the other, place the cane on the next step, and so on.
My attention was riveted on them while most everyone else looked at the traffic light, probably hoping that we didn’t miss the green light and have to sit there longer. Once the elderly man reached the sidewalk, he reached over to his waiting companion, took her left hand, and quietly placed it just above his right elbow. Supporting one another, they walked down the street and out of my life, unaware of my interest in them.
I’ve never forgotten the feeling I took away from seeing that. To this day, it remains one of the sweetest gestures I have ever seen. In that one action I heard unspoken words of trust and respect, support and endurance. Watching that corner scene, I almost felt as though I was spying on the couple. It was no more than a moment and yet it was one that struck me as intimate and personal, not for public display.
I’ll never know who those people were. But if I could, I’d thank them for giving me hope that love can be present in the quiet moments of everyday life even after a lifetime together.