Chris and I take a taxi down to the Harbour Master’s House in Dysart several times a week. A small café there has proved one of the only spots in Dysart where we can pick up the internet. Sometimes the café is bustling and sometimes we find ourselves the only customers. It’s a lovely place, with windows that overlook the harbor, little colourful fishing boats bobbing on the surface of the water. We enjoy our time there…a welcome break from the one room we currently occupy.
As constant as the day is the couple who arrives every afternoon around 2. I sense their love is likewise constant. They are quite elderly and it appears that she has suffered a stroke. He pushes her wheelchair into the café and goes to “their” table – a small round table in the middle of the café. It is only after he has her settled that his own frailty becomes apparent. His gait is somewhere between a shuffle and a limp. They are dressed immaculately. He is always dressed in trousers, shirt and sweater. She is always in woolen skirt and blouse with a cardigan in a soft pastel. Her hair is perfectly styled – and I suspect it is styled by his loving hands. He always orders the same thing – two lattés, served in elegant tall glasses. He tastes them both, to see which one is cooler. He adds her sugars (two packets), stirs the coffee and places a napkin on her chest. And so they sit, sipping their coffee, but it is he who lifts the glass to her lips. The conversation is chatty and casual, albeit one-sided. Her stroke has left her without a voice, but I have no doubt he hears her still as he converses with her, smiling and looking at her with love. She looks at him too, but it is with a great sadness. I sense that she wishes so deeply that she could speak to him. I would imagine she would like to tell him that she is so grateful to him for staying with her “in sickness and in health.”
He looks like a Harry; she looks like a Margaret. I imagine them as young people, both actively involved in the war effort as Britain courageously stood up to the German Luftwaffe. Perhaps he was in the Royal Navy; perhaps she was in the WRNs – the women’s Royal Navy. Or maybe they were married by the time the war came. Perhaps as he served, she raised their children in a small Scottish village, waiting for her husband to come home. Like my darling in-laws, they are of that generation of admirable British strength and reserve. Their obvious love touches me so much when they come to the café. He takes good care of her and loves her dearly.
Chris and I sometimes find ourselves in rehearsal for that stage in life. My arthritis now requires an electric sitting trolley in the grocery store and, when the pain is overwhelming, Chris must often run errands for me or bring me a drink or a sandwich. And just as “Margaret””looks lovingly and gratefully at “Harry”, I hope Chris can see the love and gratitude in my eyes. Until my voice is stilled, I tell him as often as I can. Til death us do part.