- the quality or state of being strong, in particular
- the emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations or events that are distressing or difficult.
- the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure.
- the influence or power possessed by a person, organization, or country.
- the degree of intensity of a feeling or belief.
I used to think I knew what strength was. I knew physical strength, the kind that helped me lift things and move things, and strength like carrying through and finishing the Spinning class that was kicking my butt, or God help me, Danielle’s Kickboxing class. But yesterday, at the grocery store of all places I saw the best example of strength I have ever seen.It wasn’t by a muscled young guy, although our Big Y has some really cute guys working there. I had popped in to grab a few things when I stopped to look at a package of croissants. My son LOVES croissants but I rarely buy them. I was reading the label when I voice said, “I’ve tried those and they’re not so good. “ I looked up to see a handsome elderly man holding the hand of an elderly woman. He want on to say that he thought they were greasy and he ate two but he gave the rest to the birds. I smiled at him and thanked him, and told him he talked me out of them. He told me he was sorry to disappoint me, but he didn’t want me to waste my money. Then he looked at the woman next to him, a lovely woman with a big smile, and said, “This is my wife, Lois. She has Alzheimer’s, and is non verbal. I’m John.”* I smiled and introduced myself to them both, and he said, “ See this necklace?” He pointed out a pretty turquoise colored necklace that Lois had around her neck. “Our granddaughter sent that to her. Lois likes to bite on things so she wears this now and she can bite whenever she wants! Isn’t that right, Lois?” Then we started chatting about turquoise and he tells me that he and Lois had been to Mexico and mined turquoise. They’ve been all over the world, except Australia!
“Oh, you should have seen her!” He said. “She was a spitfire! She would try anything once. When we were in Egypt, she belly danced so wonderfully that I was offered 12 camels for her! Isn’t that right, Lois?” He told me stories about their travels in the middle of the produce section at Big Y and he stopped to include her in every part of the conversation. He told me how they had a big house before but sold it and bought an apartment that was easier for both of them, because he takes care of her. He told me he had a lady to come in and help some with housework, but he loved taking care of her. He bragged about their children and grandchildren and I asked questions and then I asked, “How long have you been married?” He stopped, still holding Lois’ hand, looked at her and smiled the sweetest, gentlest smile, He touched her cheek, and she closed her eyes, as if to say she remembered that touch.
63 years. We’ve been married for 63 wonderful years. We were married in 1951. We have wonderful children and traveled all over! Lois was planning our HUGE trip- we were going on a 6 month world tour when, well, we couldn’t go. So, instead, now we come down here to the Big Y, every single day, and we share a donut. One donut. We sit in the café and have a donut and I talk to people and we get out of the house. It helps me…. it helps me get her dressed and out of the house. So, we do donut day.
Then he starts telling me about Coconut oil and how he gives it to her now and how she tried to talk today and he was going on and all I could think of was Donut Day. After 63 years of seeing the world, their world was reduced to a small local grocery store and donut day. As we chatted, John never once let go of Lois’ hand. He did, on occasion stroke their entwined hands,almost mindlessly as if to reassure both of them that all was well. We chatted a bit more and then went on our way. I thought about them all day. I was thinking about them as I went to bed, safe, beside my husband of nearly 18 years and all the stuff we have gone through. The health scares, cancer, losing parents, having children, losing weight and gaining weight, and I kept thinking of John holding her hand. Quietly, firmly, lovingly, and I thought, that is real strength. Love is stronger than anything, anywhere. It’s stronger than the opinions of others who think they know better than you. Love is stronger than things you thought you could NEVER do, never get past, never forget, and it all came down to him, holding her hand, being there for her. And today, when I think of strength, I think of them, holding hands, eating a donut.
*Not their real names