Sunday, July 8, 2007

Till death do us part~


My husband and I have different ways of recharging our batteries. I left him happily puttering in the yard, and traveled thirty miles south to the city of New Bedford. An old whaling city, much of its charm lies in its historic district with cobblestone streets and original brick buildings.

This weekend the city was hosting "Summerfest"-- an annual Arts and Folk music festival.

I wandered in and out of the vendor tents, skipping the clothing and jewelry, focusing on art and photography, ignoring the carved wood displays altogether. I talked myself out of getting a bonsai tree at all three of the bonsai tree vendors. Although, I'd love one, I always talk myself out of a tiny tree. Some day I won't. I flipped through self-published books, not looking directly at the authors grouped under the awnings, although I could feel their hopeful eyes on me.

I took pictures of buildings, flowers, and cobblestone streets, and a picture of a building bearing the name of a friend. Mostly though, I found myself watching people, and listening, catching snippets of conversation as they passed,

"Well, then I wouldn't have been able to wash my feet . . .."

"You gotta think of yourself. You gotta protect yourself . . .."

"Next year we won't have to bring the stroller . . .. "

I walked behind an older couple. So in sync they were-- keeping pace, stepping in unison-- that I think they must have spent a lifetime together. He gripped her hand, curving his around hers, bending his wrist the way a father grasps the hand of a toddler. She leaned on her cane; he carried her pocketbook. It was the same blue as the blue in her dress.

He turned to her and said, "I think this is the last year we'll be coming to this."

She didn't turn to him. She didn't reply, that I could tell. Maybe she squeezed his hand.

They continued in step to the corner. He stepped off the curb and turned to help her down. I saw his profile; I never saw her face.

They touched me, this couple who never knew I snapped their picture.

I tend to build stories around people. These two were childhood sweethearts, separated by war-- she at home with two babies, he on the front somewhere. Letters home were cherished, reread and filed in a shoebox that traveled with every move they later made.

Any couple I've known who remained together through long years of marriage has told me, "We've had our troubles. It wasn't a piece of cake." But for one reason or another, good reasons, or expedient, they've remained together, choosing death to part them.

Why did this couple stay together? They have stories, reasons, excuses I'll never know. They have examples of wisdom and foolish pride to share.

I think about them, and wonder . . . what would they do differently if they could?
~~~~~

From Wikipedia: Herman Melville, who worked in New Bedford as a whaler, wrote the novel Moby Dick and published it in 1851; the city would be the initial setting of the book, including a scene set in the Seaman's Bethel, which still stands today. Despite the power it gave to New Bedford, the whaling industry began to decline starting in 1859 when petroleum, which would become a popular alternative to whale oil, was discovered. Whaling in New Bedford eventually came to a halt in 1925, with the last whaling expedition being made by the John R. Manta schooner.

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