From Chicken Soup for the Romantic Soul

True Love

If you have [love], you don’t need to have anything else, and if you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter much what else you have.

Sir James M. Barrie, British playwright

I saw them walk in, he with his walker, proud and tall, she on his tail, uncertain of the fate awaiting her. With the peak upon us, the morning had been a whirlwind. This couple stood out like a sore thumb. At that time of year it was rare to have a married couple at my desk, let alone one in their sixties. It had been return after return filed by young ladies, girls almost, to claim the ever-popular earned income credit. These girls actually thought this was a good thing, these large refunds they received after an entire year of scraping and making do. They didn’t want to earn more because they will lose that huge tax refund. How foolish these young girls were. They were mothers, yet still children. I wondered if they would ever have that same look on their face as the woman I saw walk in with her husband.

Ready for a change, I looked up as I finished with the client at my desk. My thoughts turned to wishing I would be the next in line when that older couple had their turn. Something about them captured my eye and my heart. In the midst of a divorce, romance was far from my mind. But I could sense romance as they walked through the door. The old-fashioned kind where the love had grown so big that it engulfed the two souls. I could see that on this couple’s face. In the way they sat almost intertwined.

Picking up the clipboard I saw the woman look up anxiously. Apparently she knew I was going to call them next. “Clarence?” I said out loud. And the couple rose as I directed them to my desk. Relief washed through me as I wondered what their story was. She was shaky in that way that many older women are, not physically as much as emotionally and mentally. It was apparent he had protected and cared for her all their married life. She had that look of total trust and dependency. In turn though, I knew that things were changing for them. The presence of his walker was cruel evidence of a fork in the road for this couple.

I introduced myself, and she in turn introduced herself and her husband in a most genteel fashion. There was a question on her face. She had turned sixty-five during the tax year and the Social Security benefits she had received were a concern for her. He was trying to hush her. “Put that back, they don’t deal with that here,” he said as he refolded her papers and stuffed them back in her purse. I had given her enough answer to soothe her. She had worked during the tax year for perhaps the first time in decades. Many new experiences were coming her way.

The couple had never used a tax service before. Their daughter usually did their taxes, but things had gotten busy for her and they didn’t want to bother her. With the advent of the rapid refund many people who would not normally use a tax service came in to have their returns done and get their refunds quick. This couple was no different. They needed the money and my heart broke at the reason. In the midst of conversation I heard him say, “I may not be able to work much longer, I have cancer.” I felt my heart leap to my throat and it was all I could do to keep the tears on the inside.

I saw her breath catch as she heard the words. I knew there was terror hidden beneath those innocent eyes. Her beloved, her life and reason for being was being taken from her. She could not even drive herself around. There had never been a need for her to get a driver’s license. He had chauffeured her wherever she needed to go for more than forty years. This was true romance, love at its finest. He was incapable of boiling water or turning on the washing machine. There had never been a need for him to do that. She did it.

I noticed his birthday was the next day and my heart skipped a beat. They applied for the rapid refund so I knew there was a chance I would see them again and on his birthday.

Another of their daughters came in the next day by their referral. I recognized the name on the coupon. I asked her what they were going to do for him and she told me all he wanted was that day, no gifts, no hoopla. He just wanted to spend it in gratitude for having another day. My heart ached to celebrate not only this man but also this couple, their strength and fortitude. They were not haggard from the ordeal of the cancer. They had just learned gratitude from it.

Musing on them as I had found myself doing time after time in the brief period since I met them, I realized that I had fallen hopelessly in love. This couple who walked into my life at a time when I was beginning to believe that true love did not exist changed me forever. I truly hoped there were no delays in processing and that I would see them again. I would not work the following day, and if the refund check was not ready then, I would miss seeing them again.

A couple of hours later as I handed out a refund check I noticed their name on the log. I wondered if I would have the privilege of wishing this man a happy birthday and seeing his bride again. I heard the door open and felt my heart leap as Clarence and Dorothy walked through the door. He with his walker, she close on his heels. Their faces radiated joy. He at having reached another birthday and she that her love was still by her side.

True to her nature Dorothy had obediently come in with her ID card ready. As Clarence reached for his wallet I shooed his effort away. They needed no identification, my heart knew immediately who these people were. “Happy birthday!” I said as I pulled out his check. I saw relief in her eyes though. They needed the money. Not only did he know it but he had not been able to shelter her from that knowledge. “Thank you,” he said with a glint in his eye. After as much chitchat as I dared, I bid them good-bye. Watching them walk to the door I chanted, “See you next year,” as we commonly do after handing out the refund checks. I heard him say, “I hope so.”

I could only stand there, watching as if I had lost my true love. Tears welled up in my eyes at the ordeal these two had yet to come. But I knew without a doubt that their love would withstand even the cruelest journey.

Valerie Cann

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