At the senior center where Frank and I live, it’s customary to join strangers at meals, and that’s what we did today at lunch, pairing up with a couple quite a bit older than we are. Sissie, the wife, had big black eyes that danced as she talked. Bud, her husband, sat ramrod straight. He wore wire-rimmed glasses, parted his hair down one side.
Sissie could hardly wait for introductions to get out of the way. “We’re celebrating our wedding anniversary today,” she said, too excited to sit still in her chair. “Guess which one.”
“Sixty-five,” I said, taking a not-so-wild stab.
“Seven.” Bud finished the number. He grinned at her. “We’re shooting for seventy.”
“Be careful of shooting,” I said in a lame effort at humor.
Bubbling over with joy and a new audience, Sissie told us how two Georgia natives met at LSU just after World War II. She was climbing aboard a truck for a Tri-Delt hayride when Bud spotted her from across the street. He had been a student on a golf scholarship before the war, had fought with the Navy, returned to school and resumed the scholarship. He asked a friend her name, and one thing led to another. Except that in the telling, Sissie mentioned one of his girlfriends who now lived in the senior center. “I’ll tell you about her in a minute,” she said.
The minute stretch on as we heard one vignette after the other, all cute stories, about their early romance and first married years. When Sissie finally wound down, I asked about the girl friend who now lived nearby.
“What?” Sissie said.
“Bud’s girlfriend, the one you said lived here,” I continued. Bud and Frank nodded yes to her.
“What?” She turned on Bud. “You have a girlfriend here?”
Her eyes were wide, her smile gone. She glared at Bud.
“No, no,” I said, rushing to Bud’s rescue, “the girlfriend you told us about, the one you said you’d tell about.” Frank and Bud tried to remind her also, the three of us talking at once.
Bud picked up the remininsces, easing the topic away from old girlfriends and in a minute Sissie was laughing and telling tales again. That’s when I noticed how she relied on him and how ever so subtly he cued her along. Her smile back in place, she left for her hair appointment. “I’m getting ready for our big celebration tonight,” she said.
I exhaled. My probing wasn’t going to break them up after sixty-seven years.