Forget Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal. Randall and Joan have a love story far more poignant. They have been married exactly as long as I have been alive: 63 years. When Joan’s mom first laid eyes on Randall back in 1952 at church, she whispered in her daughter’s ear, “That is the boy you are going to marry.” She was right.
Three children, several grand and great-grand children later, they are still together. They still hold hands. Despite the fact that Randall uses a walker, he still holds the car door open for Joan when she gets in, then shuffles to the back, folds his walker into the trunk and eases into the driver’s seat. Every afternoon, he drives Joan to Starbucks and they each get a simple coffee and sit together at a table in the center. They love people watching and being, “out in the world.”
A few months ago, their three daughters decided that they needed to sell their home of 40 years and move into an assisted-living facility. That was probably a good decision. However, Randall, having once studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, absolutely HATES the food there pronouncing it, “tasteless as cardboard.” As a result, he has demanded the food portion of his bill back from the facility and instead, takes Joan out for most of their meals.
Clearly, Joan is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s and each time we meet, asks me the same, exact questions as if she were a 33 1/3 LP going around in circles. When I ask Randall how he is coping, he confesses that he is, “worried I will outlive my retirement savings.” Then he adds, “Look, I know I’m not going to get any better than I am right now. So, every night when I go to bed, I pray, ‘Lord I am ready whenever you are.’ But at the same time, I also pray that I will be able to care for Joan as long as she lives.”
There is no greater love I’ve witnessed than his for her but here is what distresses me most. Their daughters have told him “several times” that they, “don’t like” his going to Starbucks every day. They complain that, “It is too expensive.” If I ever meet them, I will give them more than a piece of my mind. I might just turn them over my knee and give them a good spanking.