I consider myself a regular customer at the Marathon gas station two blocks from my work. I purchase gas at the pump there weekly and go inside to purchase a drink once or twice a month. The owner and a couple of staff know me after several years of this routine.
Between the chilly drive in and the thought of rewarding myself for coming in to work on a Saturday morning again I decided it was a good day to stop for coffee.
As I was creating my own blend of artificially flavored French Vanilla Coffee with some Folger’s decaf, a gentleman who appeared to be in his late 80’s headed past me toward the counter. Not exactly shuffling, but walking carefully. I took my time before following him toward the counter, arriving there right behind him, and just in time to see the staff quickly open the register nearest this gentleman, telling him they always open it for their special customers. The owner was at the counter a few feet back and winked, waving at me to come to her register.
Both clerk’s asked about his health, then inquired “And how’s the boss, today?” To this he replied, “Not too good. She ‘s not feeling any better, and she has me to put up with.” Everyone chuckled at this as he added, “Been putting up with me for 66 years now.”
The small talk continued as he slowly made his way out the door and to his parked car, and I wondered vaguely if he ought to still be driving. Thankful my mom had given up doing so without complaint in her early 80’s.
The owner quickly whispered to me some of his family background. It’s a small county and it turned out I know one of this man’s sons – the parents have been on a prayer list at our church off and on due to serious health problems.
“His wife has so much trouble swallowing after the treatments she’s been through, but she loves our slushies.” She paused in her story. “So he comes here every day to get one for her. Has all winter.”
Our eyes met and we grew silent in appreciation of this dedication, this love that had endured and gone the distance. 66 years and counting.