My offices, bookstore and art gallery are on South Oceanshore Boulevard (State Road A1A) in downtown Flagler Beach, directly across from the Atlantic Ocean. Every work day, several times a day, I find myself looking out the broad front window at the scene unfolding in my 180-degree view. Nature is everywhere I look. I am where I belong.
I notice all of it–the immenseness of the ocean, the shenanigans of the birds as they squabble over scraps of human-dropped food, fishermen, surfers, visitors. And, every good weather day, I watch in awe as a love story plays out before my eyes.
A sedan pulls into a parking space across the street, finding a slot near one of the four roof-covered picnic tables placed by the city for its residents and visitors. Most days, one table listens to the retirees gathered to lie about their youthful adventures or to praise or condemn the recent acts of politicians. Another table enjoys the antics of young surfers coming and going in their daily pursuit of the perfect wave. A third comforts visiting families during lunch breaks from the beach. And yet, almost as if reserved for them, one table always seems available for an elderly couple who emerge from their sedan.
The man, possibly in his eighth decade, moves to the passenger side and opens the door. He reaches in, undoes the seatbelt for his passenger, and gently helps a woman, no doubt his wife, out of the vehicle. Taking both her hands, he walks backwards, guiding her tentative steps toward the waiting table and its bench seat. With practiced precision, he slowly steps backwards, without having to look behind, up and over the curb as she obediently follows and gingerly makes the progression from road level to sidewalk.
She apparently has suffered a medical challenge, perhaps a stroke, which left her physically less capable than before. Her steps are uncertain and her face is without expression. From my window however, I can tell that she trusts the man. She knows he’ll get her to the table. They obviously do this very often.
Easily in their 80s, this couple sits on a bench, usually on the west side of the table, facing the afternoon sun. Sometimes she appears to doze off for minutes at a time, to awaken to look out with an expressionless countenance. He’s always by her side, sometimes holding her hand, sometimes placing her arm so it is hooked with his. I wonder how long they have been together. I wonder how long they have repeated this love scene before I became aware of them.
Sometimes he works on what might be a crossword puzzle or one of those numbers games that I can’t imagine myself attempting. Sometimes he just sits and talks to his love, without ever a response from her that I can observe. Always, without fail, his face shows no pain or worry or disfavor of any sort. He appears happy to be there, as if this is the best thing he could ever be doing at this time in his life. I witness this and well up with emotions.
It is clear to me that the couple enjoys the ocean setting. There are so many beautiful places in the county where they could spend their time, but they choose to be near the ocean, with the smell of the sea, the call of the birds, the activity of the people, the solitude of their personal time together. I understand this completely, because the ocean has been my place to be when I have been challenged by life’s curves. It has always been my healing place, my creative place. So, I understand why they come to their oceanfront table. I know they, too, in their own way, are answering their personal call of the ocean.
When their time in the sun is over, he rises and stands in front of her, reaches out to take her hands, and pulls her to her feet. Slowly, repeating their arrival process in reverse, he backs toward their car, with her inching her way. The curb presents a more difficult challenge stepping down than up, but with his help, she navigates it. The car door is opened and he gently lowers her onto the front seat, holding her head in his left hand so she doesn’t strike her head on the roof. He raises her legs and turns her so she is sitting forward on the seat, then latches the seatbelt across her and closes the door.
As he moves around the rear of his car to the driver’s side, I have a clear view of his face. I see only a man who loves the moment, who is doing what he knows he must do for his lady and, perhaps, for himself. I am in awe. I want to go to him one day and tell him how beautiful this repetitive scene is to observe, yet I don’t want to intrude. I know I will never speak with him, except in my mind, to tell him how special he and his lady are. I don’t want any one or any thing to change this love story. Ever.
This is my Coastal View for today, indeed, a very special view for me.