Small acts carry a deeper story

“Ever just the same, ever a surprise. Ever as before, ever just as sure. As the sun will rise, tale as old as time. Tune as old as song, bitter sweet and strange…Certain as the sun rising in the east.” —Tale As Old As Time

One morning, idling at the Wendy’s drive-thru, my daughter and I saw an elderly couple who must have been well into their 80s walk out of the restaurant and across the parking lot, looking every bit of that age.

They held on to each other, his hand on her arm, her hand over his. He guided her across the drive and around to the passenger side of their car, where she waited for the door to be pulled open.

She sat, led by his eyes as much as his hand, and he closed the door behind her, then began his trek, which was no small feat, to the driver’s side.

Both of us, young and not so young, watched from our car, fascinated. It may have been a small thing, but we stared until their tail lights lit up and they drove away.

Maybe it’s a girl thing. How can the same story, “a tale as old as time,” be this mesmerizing, every single time? Who doesn’t love a good love story? Especially the ones that are missing a few details? The mystery is part of the intrigue.

We sensed that small act of chivalry at Wendy’s must be the outer edge of a deep story. Maybe I’ve read too many World War II novels. Maybe I obsess over nostalgia (from a time that isn’t mine to obsess over) too much for my own good.

I’ve heard we’re supposed to live in the moment and I believe it. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare some moments for permanence.

Thanks to novels and the gift of story, I am convinced that it’s hard to have a real tried and true love story without one ingredient: a love letter. Of course, in my mind it should have the potential to deteriorate and turn yellow (forget the acid free paper) and get tucked inside an inconspicuous drawer or long forgotten box.

Jane Bartow, a woman from Arizona, lost her father to lung cancer in 2008. Before he died, he sent her four boxes of what she thought were family photos. But mixed in with the pictures were more than 1,000 pages of love letters written between her father and mother during the early 40s.

The letters were filled with accounts of their romance, wartime trials and family history never before revealed to their children. Pages and pages of words that for more than 60 years had only been shared between the two who wrote them to each other.

Who wouldn’t fall for a love story like that? How sad to imagine the death of handwritten love letters.

It’s comforting to think that maybe, just maybe, generations from now, in spite of the Internet and streaming minute to minute accounts of our lives being posted into neverland, that someone somewhere might still be able to unfold a piece of their parents’ or grandparents’ lives and catch a glimpse of what it was like in the moments nobody was looking.

After all, love is the “greatest of these,” or so I’ve heard. And saw, thanks to a coffee run at Wendy’s.

Shelley Plett is a graphic designer for the Free Press and Kansas Publishing Ven­tures. She can be reached at shelley@hillsborofree­press.com.