Marriage Lessons from a Ninety-One-Year-Old in the Grocery Isle. And UNITE Linky

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?”

file661249526786I wanted to run, hide. But then the man answered, looking straight at us, making a fist, he thumps his knuckles rapidly on the watermelon nearby.

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.”

There was musing and laughter. I reached to grab his aging hand, as if some of that fortitude would _DSC3562rub off on a couple who live in a day of entitlement and expectations.

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.

file000329290965“I made them that way before. I helped her cook. Helped with the children too.”

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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Jen Avellaneda

Jen is an adoptive, foster, & bio mom to trans-racial family. She speaks, writes, & passionately advocates for the orphan domestically & internationally with her husband of twenty-five years.
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  1. Oh Jen, This is a beautiful love story. Yes, I believe you were in the company of a messenger of God. I kept thinking about God’s will, as I read your words – and you came to it – God’s will that preserved love, and guided through the kind of difficult times we hope to never know. Beautiful.
    Janet recently posted…Gentle Lessons of Amazing GraceMy Profile

  2. Awe Jen – I absolutely love this! I almost missed a God moment back in June where I met a WWII Fighter pilot who shared his story with me standing in the aisle of the dollar store. I even wrote/blogged on the lesson God taught me in that moment. What a treasure you received and he did as well, as he shared his-story with you. Thank you for sharing and for hosting today. Be blessed. I am praying for more God encounters where I can gain wisdom from those who have traveled farther down the road than me.. I am purposing to not be too busy to miss them.
    Debbie Kitterman recently posted…Book Review Monday- Dance with Jesus & Book Give AwayMy Profile

  3. I got goose-bumps when he prayed over you, when you might have been standing and talking with an angel. Such a beautiful time in the produce/watermelon dept. I love it! Those can be some of God’s best moments…when we least expect them.
    Caring through Christ, ~ linda
    ~ linda recently posted…Alone With JesusMy Profile

  4. So very beautiful dear Jen…. what an honour to meet such an old darling with such a story to tell. Utterly inspirational.

    LOVED the telling of it too.

    Love YOU.


  5. I love this story! Our family is currently in the midst of our own storm. It’s great to hear words of wisdom from a tough guy, and family-man, who has gone before us. Today, I will be reminding myself, over and over again, “Where there’s a will, there is a way!” Thank you again for sharing this. It’s a very timely and encouraging post for my family and I :)
    Jed recently posted…Picking a Fight with an Unjust LawMy Profile

    1. Jed – Thank you for your words today! They inspire me to keep writing! I am so sorry your family is going through a storm, but am so encouraged that God is near in our struggled and that through those who have gone before us, we can learn, “Where there is a will, there IS a way”. Please know, I am praying for your family today!
      Jen Avellaneda recently posted…A Prayer of Faith in Times of DarknessMy Profile

  6. This is really encouraging,in deed “Where there is a will, there’s a way. Where there is a way, there is always a will.”
    Let us not give us on our desires,let us fight the good fight of faith.Amen.

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