Mr. Turner is not a teacher. Never has been, as far as I know. He owns an office supply place downtown. But he's taught me something pretty special about love; something no one else has ever shown me to the extent that that old man has.
I met Mrs. Turner before I met him—a strange old woman, riding down my street ten years ago, stopping at each house to pick up and straighten the sticks that had fallen from the trees. Rode a big tricycle—the kind made for old folks. She stopped at my yard to visit, since I have no trees to drop branches.
I've known her since then; see her several times a month, either on her tricycle or at WalMart. We talk every time we meet, and yet we've only had one conversation. I know it before it starts. I could say her part with her. It never deviates far from her mental script.
She tells me that I'm in her favorite color. She says she just found her car keys, that they've been lost for six weeks. She has been stuck at home forever, she smiles. She tells me that she threw away all her towels, and has to get more, but got sleepy and needed to stop and visit with a friend. She grabs my arm with icy, talon fingers and whispers that she is on new medication that makes her tired, but the doctor promises the side effect will only last one month, and she's halfway through that.
I have to admit that there are times when I see her and avoid her. It's hard having the same conversation with the same woman for a decade.
Whatever caused this has made her the groundhog-day-lady—stuck forever on the same day.
On the rare occasions when she adds a bit into the conversation I learn more—Mr. Turner met her on accident, thinking she was her sister. They met in the parking lot of the grocery store and went out on their first date that night. She fell in love with him instantly. She loves music, and will play it loudly, swaying back and forth to the 50's beat she keeps on her radio. She and Mr. Turner have been married for almost 50 years and have a daughter and grandchildren. They attend the Methodist church. But that's all incidental to the real conversation—the same conversation we always have.
Now...to Mr. Turner and the lesson he taught me...
I went by his shop near the end of business once. He was standing in the doorway, staring intently at the bank across the street. He smiled in greeting, but for several seconds didn't take his eyes from the other building.
"Everything okay?" I asked.
He nodded. "Anita has the moneybag, taking it to the bank for me."
When he saw my shocked expression he explained. "She used to help me run the store, but she can't do that anymore. So I let her make the deposit everyday. There's a teller waiting just inside the door for her so she won't get lost or confused. I watch her until she gets inside, knowing that the teller will take care of her and call me as she leaves the bank." He smiled, the softest, most gentle smile, and shrugged. "I just can't bear to keep her out of the business—she helped me build it. She's a part of it."
I've seen him driving up and down the streets in our neighborhood, moving slowly, checking each yard for his wife's tricycle. "She went to take out the trash," he'll say, frowning into the gathering dusk. "I know she's piling up sticks, but I just don't know where. It'll be dark soon, and cold." There is no frustration on his face, no rancor; only love and concern for his bride.
I wonder sometimes about the conversations they have in private. Do they spend every day discussing car keys and new medications? Or does his love bring out something in her that none of us can? Somehow, I think it doesn't matter. They are together, and that's what counts for them.
I've learned that he is a very strong man—a very committed man. I've learned that he must love her with a love that is unrivaled by anything else happening in their lives; the kind of love that God has for us. I've learned that, instead of seeing her limitations, he sees her heart.
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