Fred and Nancy – essay and poem

Elderly Couple

I’m sitting in Starbucks. Of course I am—it’s a Monday and I have to write something, but all I can think about is how I can’t think of anything to write. Face it, some days the poetry comes, and sometimes it doesn’t. Usually after 15 minutes of staring at my screen the thoughts start arranging themselves, marching their little selves out of my subconscious into something resembling a framework that I can work with.

But not today. I’m stuck. I drink some more coffee. Type some words. Delete them.


An elderly couple maneuvers between the overstuffed chairs deciding where to sit. A moment’s conference and the decision is made. The gentleman sets a book down in the chair facing me and his wife takes the chair besides his diagonal to me; she’s got a book and a crossword. “Nancy” is written on her personal mug in a rolling script you’d expect to see in a card from your grandmother. Husband looks like a “Fred.” Yeah, I’ll just call him Fred.

They’re back now and settled in. Coffee for both and Fred just man-handled a scone. Someone missed lunch. Nancy is deep into her crossword, right hand pressed to her forehead shading her reading glasses, left hand scratching away at the paper while Fred is spending just about as much time looking around as he is at his book. I can’t knock him; the folks you find at coffee shops are endlessly interesting. Shoot, I’m writing about them and I didn’t even mean for this to happen.

I’m distracted by the phone conversation the girl beside me is having—something to do with health care, HSA’s, blah blah blah. I turn my Spotify playlist up a little louder.

Fred has a sky-blue t-shirt with the words “Cape May” across the chest. I glance at Nancy. Bingo. Embroidered on the left side of her fleece . . . “Cape May.” I love these people. I imagine my grandparents sitting across from me, sipping coffee, comfortably coordinated, proof that healthy relationships that last decades acquire some undefinable level of we’re-just-fine-with-who-we-are-thank-you-very-much.

Fred’s navy New Balance shoes look really comfortable by the way.

Seriously, is there a chance I could sit in a coffee shop three decades from now with my best friend? I ponder the rabbit hole topics of “true love,” “soul mates,” “the one.” Heaven help me. If I’m going to start thinking about this, I’m gonna need more coffee. Hold on . . .

Blonde roast, hazelnut flavor, cream. Check. Back to the battle.

. . . I miss my grandparents. I wish I had asked them more questions: how did you meet? who kissed whom first? how did you fall in love? what happened when you asked her to marry you? what was it like the first time you found out you were pregnant? what was your first fight about? what was your one hundredth fight about? what do you see when you look at each other—the young person you fell in love with? or the person as they are now? or a mixture of both?

See, I think when you know you’re really in love—when you really know—is when you find someone who will always be there to catch you. Because you’re going to fall down. Boy, how I know it. You’re gonna nosedive into some epic face-plants, but that person who effortlessly slides in at the last minute to hand you some saving grace, that’s the person you love. You may break some bones, but it’ll be an ankle and not your neck. Because they were there. And they will be there. Until one of you takes that last big fall into the sky, but it’ll be okay because whoever goes first will be waiting on the other side.

And they’ll catch you when you get there.

I know you’re there
Waiting to share
Our next dance
Because the years went by
And I’m too tired to fly
So catch me now
I’m coming
And we’ll ignite
The northern lights
And we’ll dance
Oh, how we’ll dance.


2 thoughts on “Fred and Nancy – essay and poem

  1. I stumbled across your page when you showed up in my “people you may know” on Facebook. I don’t know you but I read this blog post and had to tell you that it’s so beautifully written.

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