I was only joking when I started thumping on watermelons.
But just like my husband, he turns to the wrinkly old man near us and carelessly asks, “How do you tell when watermelons are ripe?”
And I am not sure how we started from there, but it was something like a jet getting ready for flight, like a hidden tsunami waiting for conversation when you do not even realize you are thirsty yet…
The gentlemen started in with a tall, confident, “I am ninety-one years old”.
And right then, it didn’t matter that my family were all together, or that my husband and I grew up in two different parts of the world…
We both were drawn, taken in, pulled like a magnet to this man who we knew had wisdom for us.
“I loved her”, he shared. His eyes got glossy, his gaze like a spring chicken oozing with tenderness, compassion, dreaming of his love that fully transcended time.
I was caught in, as I pulled closer to my husband, touched his arm tenderly. We asked more questions, wanting to learn about this ninety-one year old stranger in the grocery store….and his wife.
It turns out the man was Spanish, just like my husband. He spoke two languages, and had a wit about him that men a quarter of his age often lack.
His history seeped, like molasses from his every words, his past spilling out like a cup of preserve, saved for just the right moment.
And what an honor, him telling us about his fourteen children, the depression, losing his sons in Vietnam…when we had just met.
But what struck me most was the phrase He used over and over again…
Like a broken machine he insisted…“Where there is a will, there’s a way. Where there is a way, there is always a will.”
This gentlemen used this phrase when He said he literally had no food to eat.
- “We used to boil cactus’ when we were young in Texas. Where there was a will, there was a way.”
- “We ate one potato, everyone said we were never going to make it. People were dying all around us. But I was determined to take care of my beautiful bride and my family…Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
- “We were young when we got married. Had no money for a doctor, so I delivered my wife’s first baby. There was a will and we made a way.”
And I wish I had had a tape-recorder, wish I could gather up his vivacious spirit and spread it around to a generation of “hand outs” and “free gimmys”…
Wish I myself had known “will” and “way” are so tightly connected, life isn’t bought by laying down and just expecting things to turn out fine.
All diamonds come from pressure, all gold in life must be pressed and purified first.
And I stand in the face of this man, ninety-one who lost his wife, worked day and night, raised fourteen kids and let his fight produce fruit, his will create food, even in the driest of deserts.
Until, it must have been an hour of stories, and laughing, asking questions, and his memories shared from this aging man, as if they were just yesterday, as if he were painting a picture that would be left in his passing, more precious than Van Gogh himself…
And I wonder if we know, we are painting something too?
I wonder if prior to that watermelon knocking contest, if my husband and I even knew what it means to take our will and make a way….
Or when there is a way…we too can find the will.
Or is it easier for all of us to expect a magic, microwave, marriage? Hope for Hollywood endings, to what is meant to season, and change, and age us, like the ninety-one year old man my hands were wrapped around in love, my eyes were listening to intently?
“She died, he ends. At fifty-one. Never got married again.”
His words crush me, yet stir me even more towards their love story.
And at the close of telling his beautiful journey of triumph and faith, this man points to God and wanted to make it clear…it was God who saved them from starvation and the depression, when so many around them were dying….
He ends with the melody that has a chorus waiting for him, somewhere in heaven.
The love of his life longingly anticipating this beautiful man who still makes tortilla’s by hand because he refuses to waist money on anything.
And who says men can’t be men, yet tender and selfless.
The groom and spouse can’t dig in with dirt between his nails, both giving until it hurts?
Have we been fooled into thinking…somehow love has its limits, our mind tricked into believing our own agendas are more important than the ones who carry our ring on their fingers…
Forgetting the value in those who remain when heaven and earth pass, or that the things of this land corrode and fade away?
His eyes sparkle, He says a prayer right there in the grocery story over me and my husband, “Bless you and your marriage and your family”….
And it is then, I almost wonder, was He one of those, “Be careful of who you are entertaining, because we might be in the company of an angel, and never even know it”.
Was He an angel, dropped near the watermelons, in a ninety-one year old body, to tell us….
“Where there is a will, there is a way. Where there is a way…there must always be a will.”
Because love is eternal…
And happy ending in heaven…are always worth fighting for.
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