When was the last time you witnessed true love? I’m talking about the kind of love that needs no words — bold, raw, unapologetic — and rare. I was blessed to see it once, between the man in the black beret and a woman dressed in white in a French café.
The scene was like a Truffaut movie. She was wearing all white, except for a pair of high black boots and a red scarf, delicately placed around her neck. He wore a white linen suit, gently rumpled like good linen should, and loafers — the expensive kind -— with just enough tanned ankles showing through.
As they sat down, I noticed he never took his eyes off of her, even when the waiter and water glass attempted to interrupt his stare. She was his singular focus. They didn’t speak, but only stared, and I could tell by her smile she had known him a long time.
I was mesmerized. I had seen couples in love before, especially in Paris, but this was different. Each movement of his head or hand produced an equally beautiful turn, smile, or touch back from her. As if watching a great dance, I could see how they moved — in a cadence and song known only to them.
And then it stopped. The man stood up and abruptly walked to the front of the café. Her eyes followed him to the door as she leaned slowly forward in polite anticipation. He quickly returned with something I was not expecting. He gently pulled out her chair, she looked up as if she knew just what was coming. He offered her his firm but very elderly hand, she placed her arm in his, and let him ease her ever so gently into the wheelchair he had secured next to the table.
I was unable to breathe. He stood tall and proud, not only because of the quiet way in which they mastered this ritual day after day, but of her, and her constant beauty and the love they shared for more than 50 years. How do I know? When they left the café, I asked the waiter how long they had been married. He didn’t know — only that they had met every day in this same café since it opened in 1945.
When I think of love, I remember them. I know I likely won’t live to celebrate 50 years with the one I love, but I am so thankful I witnessed this lovely moment. You see, real love is never what you expect; it has its own story, full of twists and turns and nuances only two people can understand. It is gritty, and good, more valuable than gold, and very old.
For my daughter, Sarah, who married her high school sweetheart, Michael, on Sept. 17, 2016.