A man came to clean the carpets in my home today. He was probably about sixty years old and I could tell his knees hurt him by the way he walked. But he smiled pleasantly at me and said “this is my business. Been doing it for forty years. Wife and I started it together.  Worked side by side every day.” I smiled back at him. My intent was to get out of the house and stay out of his way, but he was a talkative fellow. Being the personable sort I asked him if his wife still helped him on his Jobs.  He told me a story then, and as he talked he worked and I followed him from room to room. He met her when she was fifteen. They were freshman in high school and knew they were meant for each other. He told me of Riverside picnics, and cruising along the main drag with his girl by his side. “She’s always been by my side,” he said glancing at me.  “We got married two years after we met and couldn’t stand the thought of being apart every day, so we started this business together alongside raising  a family.”  He paused a minute then, as if he were debating on whether to continue and so I asked about his children. He told me they were all grown now with there own families and very busy. He misses his grandchildren. Then abruptly he picked  up right where he left off,  “Sometimes I don’t know how we managed to stay married. We had our rough spots alright. I had some Health problems there for a time. Couldn’t hardly take care of myself let alone the family. But there she was, right by my side. Working till she could hardly stand.” I watched him as he spoke, making long strides across the carpet with his power cleaner. His movement was methodical. Almost hypnotic. There was silence then as he was lost in his memory and I in his story. Imagining what this carpet cleaners life had been like. It was a different time he raised his family in. Things seemed so easy, but his life was far from that. “Last March we celebrated 45 years together,” he stated to me. I nodded in approval  and told him I bet they made a fine couple.  He grew quiet again, just for a moment. Then he said “I lost her that April. She didn’t want to leave me, but she couldn’t stay any longer. We never were apart a day before then.”  And as he began packing up his gear he smiled at me again and said, “and we ain’t been apart a day since neither. I know she’s right here by my side. Couldn’t make it without her. Never could.” He climbed up into his van and drove away, wishing me a pleasant afternoon.  I sat down on the curb, and let the sun shine dry the tears that began to fall. Tears of sadness at his loss, tears of sadness at never knowing what it is like to love that deeply.  Mixed in with those sorrowful tears were a few tears of hope that love like that really happens.

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