Last week, on a day that was exceptionally warm for November, I found myself observing people, as I often do. Bella and Grace, (the kids I'm a nanny for), and I, were outside on their front porch. The girls were painstakingly searching for the perfect leaves and sticks to use for their "taco stand", and I was enjoying the fact that I was sitting, and absentmindedly munching away on my "taco", when suddenly an old man and his wife emerged from the house across the street. I always love to watch old people. There is just something so interesting about them to me. I wonder about their lives, what joys and sorrows they have experienced, what parts of the world they have been to, what amazing stories they have to tell. There is something so beautiful about an older couple who have spent their lives loving each other, and are still holding onto each other lovingly after years of commitment. So, of course, I was riveted to the scene unfolding across the street.
They walked down the few steps to their driveway slowly, the woman's back hunched over, probably from osteoporosis, the man holding her to keep her steady. They didn't appear to talk much - they had a job to do. They each grabbed a rake and began to ever so slowly rake the huge amount of leaves all over their front yard towards the driveway. Every so often they would stop, and sit down awkwardly on the steps, breathing heavily, but still determined. The more they worked, and the longer I watched them, I found myself wanting to go over and help them. I even thought briefly about telling the girls we were going over to help, when I had an image of them running and screaming through the leaves, scattering piles that had already been raked, and thought better of it.
The couple worked for a long time, and I found myself looking at their house and the ones that surrounded it. I suddenly noticed that their yard did not have any trees in it! Not one. I wondered "Where did all those leaves come from?" Then, I saw the huge tree, two houses over from the one I was at. "How unfair!", I thought, "that they have to rake all the leaves from a tree that isn't even theirs!"
Suddenly another old man came out of the house with the huge tree. He walked over to the couple, and I could see they were exchanging pleasantries, chatting and laughing, and hitting each other on the back as old men often do. He pointed to his house, then left and went home. At this point, the old man, (I envision his name to be Stanley), started stretching a blue tarp out across the driveway. He raked the piles of leaves they had made into the middle of the tarp. Then, the old woman, (I envision her name to be Gladys) and Stanley started fiddling with the rope, and pulling and pushing at the tarp, trying to figure out how to wrap it around the leaves and tie it up. This is how the conversation went...in my head, at least...
Stanley: "Grunt, grunt, groan".
Gladys: "Stanley, I don't think this is how it goes. What did the directions say?"
Stanley: "I don't know, Gladys. I threw them away. I know what I'm doing."
Gladys: "Of course you do, dear, but maybe next time you should keep the directions".
Stanley: "Yes, dear. You're right. I will".
Notice two things in my imaginary conversation. One, the wife remains calm, and tells her husband he of course knows what he is doing and lets him believe he is smart and all knowing, she is merely offering a helpful suggestion. Two, the husband, has the good sense to agree with her suggestion and tell her she is "right", regardless whether he will actually take her advice or not. This is why, I imagine, these old couples are still married and in love. They know what works.
Once they gathered the tarp around the leaves in a way that they deemed acceptable, Stanley started to carry the tarp haphazardly across the street, toward the huge tree guy's house. Why, I'm not sure. Meanwhile, Gladys kept up her slow and steady pace, continuing to rake what looked to be one of the last piles of leaves she would have to do. Suddenly, a huge gust of wind blew, and I watched, horrified, (as if in a movie's slow motion sequence), as all of the leaves that were left on the huge tree blew directly into Gladys and Stanley's freshly raked yard! I wasn't sure if I wanted to laugh or cry. But then, I looked at Gladys. She stood in the middle of the driveway, looking up at the sky, shaking her head incredulously. She was saying something - her lips were moving. I laughed out loud, and she glanced across the road at me, and our eyes met. She laughed, waved, and shrugged her shoulders. Then, she picked up her rake and resumed her task.
And this, my friends, is the secret to a long and happy life, as I see it. When life throws another pile of leaves at you, you look up to the sky, say a prayer or curse God, (whichever works for you), shrug your shoulders, and then...get on with it.