The Old People

We sit on the hardwood floor, facing eachother, surrounded by half-opened wedding gifts and torn pastel tissue paper. My pen in hand, he reads aloud to me:

"Wine decanter," and who it is from.

I write it down for the thank you list.

We are on the third floor of an old Chicago brownstone. Our first apartment; our first home. The wedding was the week before and we are just now opening and reading and laughing and dreaming. We are married now, and the proof is in the cards and the bows and the matching pillows paired on the bed.

I slit open a small white envelope and take in the image of entwined hands, the typed sentiments, and the tiny signature written in the far right-hand corner of the page: the old people.

"Who are the old people?" I ask him, laughing.

He knows. "My grandparents." The only ones living, who couldn't make the journey, who I'd only met once or twice before. In all honesty, I wasn't sure they knew my name.

"Oh, the old people," I say, and smile.

Old people who sign their cards the old people must have a story. And they did. 

A story of a farm, and a dozen children, and of loss, and of celebration. Of prodigals and companionship and the passing of time.

jack farm 4

We give them their first great-grandchild and he meanders along the dirt rows of their farm, chasing barn cats. They meet and hold the girl - "Oh, look at that hair." - before we whisk her across the ocean. But while we are away the old man goes Home and we mourn from afar. The old woman still sees more great-grandchildren, laughing at their names (and we laugh, too, at our earnest originality in naming). 

And our children remember her and sigh with heavy eyes when she goes Home, too.

But she was ready, we say. She missed him. She is finally where she wants to be: with Jesus and with Grandpa.

A dozen years from the start we reminisce, sift through the wedding box and find the card with entwined hands. Inside hides a crisp $20 bill and it is signed, the old people.

We laugh and laugh. "How did we miss this?" we ask. Because we know the time is soon, he writes the old woman to thank her and to tell her that we'll do with it what they would've done: go out for coffee, sit side by side, and talk about our story.