On being an elder walking hand-in-hand
We complete our visit to the restroom at Wa She Shu Casino and are walking hand-in-hand to the front door. From behind the counter we hear, “Hold it! Don’t Move!” Seconds later, a young woman, camera in hand, stands directly in front of us. She raises her cell phone. Click, the deed is done. She has taken our picture. In a somewhat ruffled state, she says, “I haven’t seen anyone walking hand-in-hand for a long, long time.” She then scurries back behind her counter.
This young woman apparently needed an emotional lift for that particular moment, and we were it. How nice to be recognized as an example of affection and caring. The reason we were hand-in-hand was (as much as anything) to help hold us upright, but that’s not absolutely true, either. I enjoy holding Orllyene’s hand. I can be a gnarly old stump sometimes and, then at other times, I know the prize I’m married too and want to hold onto it for as long as I can.
That evening, Marsia is at the front door. She has brought a salad and a bottle of red wine. She is our honored guest for dinner. Marsia is on break from college in Washington State. Three years ago, when she last joined us for dinner, she was starry-eyed and eager to leave the tranquility of Smith Valley. Now, she is about to graduate and it’s time to find a job. Today, she is a tall beauty with sparkling eyes.
I prod Marsia to clue us in on her college life. She tells us she spent a semester at Oxford to expand her tutorial. She speaks of an underground tunnel that connects to other school libraries. On a group excursion to Uganda, they were charged with cleaning a snake habitat.
“First, we had to locate all seven snakes, and then we could begin to clean. Of course, the keepers wanted us to handle the snakes. I was the only one to handle a giant python. They are pure muscle,” she says.
“I learned some valuable lessons too,” Marsia continues. “When I was in Spain, I had my pocket picked. We were in a dense crowd and a woman next to us hollered excitedly, ‘That man running over there, he stole your wallet,’ and while I was looking in his direction, SHE picked my pocket.”
Marsia is well aware of the privilege of all the travel she has enjoyed and tells us a tale when she almost froze to death.
“On a student trip to Antarctica,” she says, “we were all in the dining area of the ship. Someone on deck screamed, WHALE! We all rushed over to the railing. I was in a thin layer of clothing. A pod of whales was in a feeding frenzy. The ship was surrounded by whales, and there I stood, no jacket, no camera, and just watched for 20 minutes. It was just so perfect.”
For three hours, the glow of good conversation flows. Then the tempo shifts: how to find a job upon graduation? I figuratively step aside. Orllyene and Marsia’s minds become one. They share perspectives, and exchange hugs.
The next day, Orllyene tells me, “Marsia has no idea of how intelligent, sophisticated, and pretty she is. She will do just fine.”
Ron Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org