Charlie will be 88 in November. He is a Navy vet, married to his wife Laura for 62 years. I learned that today.
They were walking towards a gate at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. It's a daunting airport for many but he trundled along though slower than she. His hands were swollen and twisted with arthritis. He stopped to put down his suitcase and switch hands. His wife toddled on determinedly. He tried to hurry a bit to catch up, but soon slowed.
After a few minutes, he again stooped to put down his suitcase and switch hands. I stopped and lingered a few feet behind him, unnoticed.
Several yards later, his wife stopped to review the signs as the concourses split. He caught up with her. I eased up next to them to ask if I could help them find their gate, and then gently asked if I could carry something.
Because I really was traveling in their direction--and had time--I offered to walk with them to their gate and carry Charlie's case. She wasn't too pleased to get the help until she realized how hard it would have been for them to find and get to F3 on their own.
As we walked, Charlie told me where they were headed and why, that they didn't travel much any more, that he had had knee replacement some years ago but sometimes they just gave him fits, and that he had had rheumatoid arthritis for about 12 years. "But what are you gonna do about it?", he asked as he rolled along beside me.
We got to their gate and they found seats. We exchanged names. They both thanked me, and warmly. Laura, who had warmed up to me, was tickled to tell me how long they'd been married and "yes, he's been stubborn all those years."
I wished them a safe journey and then headed to my own gate, partially blinded by tears.