My journey has only just begun but what a great gift I have received already...a lovely woman (who I found out later was the youthful age of 89 - though she looked not a day older than 70) sat next to me from Bristol to Newton Abbot (roughly about a two hour journey). We chatted a bit in the beginning while I nodded in and out of sleep and then when we were halfway on our way we started chatting about everything, where I was going, what I was going to do, where she was from, etc.
The best part of what she told me was her own personal love story. Now, I have to admit that when I was younger I was probably one of the biggest romantics around. I bought books just on personal love stories to confirm what I always believed to be true - true love and soul mates do exist. I won't comment now on what I believe, but will just share this lovely story with you all that was so touching.
So my new friend, let's call her Mary,
is Cornish, from a little town off the coast of Cornwall. She was born and raised there but moved to Newton Abbot in the early '60s and has been there ever since. She's got three children, one daughter living just outside of Reading, one son living in Cornwall and another son living in France. She's got a few grandchildren, one in particular (the very young age of 24) who had recently split with her long-time boyfriend (I know some of you are asking yourselves how can you have a long-time bf at 24? My guess is from the age of 18?) but realised it was a mistake and that they should get back together because they were meant to be together. So Mary recounts this story of her granddaughter to me as a segeway to her own love story.
It was 1947 and she had just returned on leave from the navy (where she was working as a nurse) and had come home to visit her family. Her soon to be husband, was just returning to this same home town after a 4 year station in Burma. As she was waiting at the bus stop this fateful Wednesday evening, he passed by in his car and asked her if she would like a lift. Mary, being the spunky lady that she is, told him to get lost as she wasn't one for being picked up so easily. Off goes Mary's husband to be and in comes an old friend of Mary's, Gail. Mary asks Gail if she knew who that guy was and Gail said, 'of course, so do you, we all grew up together!' Suddenly it hits Mary, wow, we did, though we never really knew each other. She feels bad and sees that he had stopped at the dry cleaners to give his clothes to launder, so she runs up there and says hello. The dry cleaner asks if they know each other and Mary's husband to be says, well I thought we did but she just told me to get lost. Mary responded with some sweet quip like yes, that's true but know I've decided I do remember you. He asked her out right then, they went out that evening and the next and by Saturday they were engaged and married 9 weeks later.
They were married for 55 years when Mary's husband passed away. She said she loved every minute of it and wished she had more time with him. It was incredible because this is the type of story I used to go buy books to read about and here I was, on this little train to the south coast of England and getting a real version in person! She said that she knew they were meant to be and knew that life had put them together for a reason. Both Mary and her husband had been engaged to other people before they met each other and decided to call off the engagements. When they shared that piece of information with each other they felt that it was all written before and that life had found a way to bring them together.
She told me this story with the most beautiful twinkle in her eye and hand on her heart. This was why she was so happy that her granddaughter decided to give her relationship another go...she really saw that when the two of them together it was impossible not to see they were meant to be. I told her she had a great role model in her grandmother and she just laughed.
We spoke about lots of other things in the hour we had left together but this is what stuck with me the most. Well, this and the moment that a woman across the aisle took off her shoes and stretched out to get comfy and display her feet to the world (hikers feet, so you can imagine what that was like). I expected Mary to be 'typically British' and say something about how rude that was but instead, with a glint and a giggle she said: 'wouldn't it be great to give them a little tickle? That's the child in me!'
Absolutely fantastic. A courageous woman who at 89 is still going strong, moving around with relative ease and still full of life, joy and sparkle.
Whether you believe in love at first sight, soul mates or 'meant to be' isn't really an issue as I see it. I think it is just a beautiful reminder of the beauty of traveling and knowing that, despite what you read or hear every day, there are still people out there who can enjoy 55 years and more together without blinking an eye.