February, 2018—I’m writing this column from the southern shore of Tampa Bay in America’s sunniest city, St. Petersburg, FL. So let’s get the Snow Bird horn blowing out of the way. Yes, it is warm and sunny, and I realize folks back home are tired of cold, ice and snow. So what if it’s 72 this morning and I can just walk out the door in my T-shirt and you can’t. I’m not going to make a big deal about it.
It almost makes sleeping in the back of a SUV in the municipal parking lot worth it. Twenty-five cents an hour in the meter is a good deal in anyone’s book. All you need is a Starbucks wifi nearby.
Or so I’m told.
The Florida trip has become an annual February pilgrimage for the first three weeks of the month. There are two things we always observe, either here or on the way down— our wedding anniversary and the Super Bowl.
Both have been faithfully observed, and we are, as it says in the Bible, well pleased. Naturally, we are well pleased because we are still married and still in love. One way you can tell you are really in love is that you can ride together in a car for hours and not say a word. I’m talking about not saying a word and being perfectly content, even pleased, not to have the stress of engaging in meaningless conversation. When you are riding for hours with somebody you don’t love, you can only last about five or 10 minutes without saying something to the other person. It can be exhausting having to make conversation with someone you don’t love— even if it’s a person you know really well like your mother. You can love friends, cousins and siblings, of course, but it’s not the same as someone with whom you are really in love. You have to talk to the former and not so much with the latter.
My wife, Mary, is the latter, and one of the reasons we can ride for hours without talking is we’ve been together so long. We pretty much know what each other is thinking, so why talk about it? Sometimes a thought strikes one of us, we glance at each other and exchange knowing nods. It may be something we’ve observed driving along, but we pretty much know what we’re thinking about it, so why talk about it?
Sometimes Mary, who doesn’t drive, will say something like: “You almost ran into that car! Didn’t you see the light turn red?” I might respond with: “First of all, I didn’t almost hit that car and, secondly, the light was still yellow.”
Of course, I knew she would notice me running the light and she, conversely, knew I would deny that the recent squealing of tires was another car successfully avoiding a collision. It wasn’t really that close. He overreacted. Trust me.
I should point out that we do have occasional conversations while we are riding together, so it’s not that we’ve run out of things to talk about. We talk quite a bit, often in wonderment, about Trump. We are thankful to President Trump for giving us something to talk about, especially in wonderment. Make that disbelief. We also talk about how screwed up things are and our concern for our grandson’s future. It’s not like we’re whining or thinking the sky is falling. We’re positive people, so we also expect that everything will turn out fine as it always does for Americans.
We also share memories of our 49 years of wedded bliss and how amazing it was that we were allowed to marry at the ages of 10 and 11, respectively. Okay, so we were older than that, but you are only as old as you feel and I, for one, feel very, very old. Mary, however, has the spirit and energy of a young woman. The other day, on the drive down, the couple at a table next to us at a restaurant was talking about us and didn’t realize we could hear them.
“Isn’t that nice?” the woman says to the man.
“I don’t need any ice!” grumped the man who was obviously hard of hearing
“I said ‘nice,’” she said even louder. “I just think it’s nice that woman is taking her elderly father out for a bite.”
“Yes! Yes!” Grumpy Guy responded. “I think the rice is all right, but I’ve had better chicken.”
We both had a hearty laugh about it when we got back in the car, but we really didn’t have to talk about it. We are both secure in where we are in life, and we don’t get all that concerned about what others think and say about us. We just don’t need to talk about it.
A couple hours later, after about 130 miles and approaching the I-95 junction, I couldn’t take it any longer I had stewed about it long enough, but I didn’t need to say a thing. She knew, of course, that something was on my mind.
“Okay,” she finally asked, “What’s bothering you?”
So I blurted it out: “I wonder why that guy hated ice so much?”