(Oh, that day. Gary is gone now, but I hope I will always remember how often he showed his love for me. I miss him so.)
I was wearing a white coat that frigid day. The wind whipped and snapped and the ground was covered feet deep in snow so hard that some of us could walk on top of it. Woe to any heavy enough to fall through, because it was almost impossible to pull yourself out without help. My coat was no match for the sub-zero temperature that day, but I was so in love I hardly noticed. Thankfully, he did.
It happens every time the first icy fingers of fall find a way to touch me. Seems like they most often find a vulnerable spot on the back of my neck, but that initial blast of frosty air always takes my breath away.
Fall is tricky that way. We have days that begin with a windshield that needs the scraper we can’t find, then the sun somehow manages to warm the air until we’re shedding our jackets and sweaters. At night, we snuggle under comforters and listen to the furnace tick and whistle as it gears up for another Illinois winter.
There is one memory for someone I know well. When the temperatures dip sharply that first time, she allows her mind to take her back a little over 30 years ago. Now she may not remember what she ate for lunch the day before, but this day is forever a part of her.
It was a frigid December day. The sky was gunmetal gray; the air snapped and wind whipped from the north. She noted all of this in the back of her mind as she made her way around the car, carefully picking her way through the ice-crusted snow.
Boots were a luxury she couldn’t afford, yet she barely felt the cold. That’s what she thought, anyway, as she rounded the car to walk with her fiancé to his house.
He took one look at how she tried in vain to hold her coat closed. The wind was pulling it apart, an easy enough task because there were no buttons. The coat was white, fake fur and looked deceptively warm but it was terribly thin instead.
Her long, dark hair was flying this way and that. She had no gloves, no boots, and a poor excuse for a coat but she barely noticed. All she knew for certain was that she was the luckiest young woman on the planet. And she was looking at the reason why.
He spoke, then, into the wind. “Don’t you have another coat?” he asked.
She smiled, teeth chattering. “No. This one’s fine, it’s the prettiest one I’ve ever had,” she said. She pulled it tighter and never mentioned that the coat had come from charity.
He eyed her carefully, then hurried to her side. He put his arm around her and pulled her close. “You’re freezing,” he said.
The wind tried to pull the coat open once more, but with the two of them holding each other, it didn’t happen. She shivered, and leaned toward the warmth.
“It’s a pretty coat, but I’m buying you a new one,” he said. And he did.
They were married later that month after knowing each other for only three months, and he’s been buying her coats and shoes and other wonderful things for over 30 years.
There’s something to be said for those angels all around us who see exactly what we need and they immediately do something about it. I hope you have run into a few of these folks, and I also hope you keep your eyes open for the opportunity to be an angel yourself. You have, haven’t you?
Over the years, say the last 30 or so, I’ve seen what it means to have compassion, to try and find the good in people – all from one guy. It occurred to me that he must have had good teachers. He did.
When the weather turned frosty this year, all I had to do was open a closet door and pick out a jacket. I have several to choose from, and that’s not counting the gorgeous blue winter coat for when it gets really cold. That one was a gift from a different angel.
This December will bring another wedding anniversary, 33 blessed years together. I think the future was sealed for these two when they realized that all they cared about was making the other one happy.
I’m one lucky girl.