Kissing at the YMCA

While waiting at the YMCA a while back, I observed something that deeply touched my heart. I'm a hopeless romantic. That's made these last several years all the anguishing for me. Let me share briefly what I observed that day at the YMCA.

"He also serves who only sits and waits," said the elderly woman, her voice gaspy.


Her husband looked up from his magazine. In her left hand swung a portable oxygen bottle, defacing tubes criss-crossing her features, harnessed to her nostrils like a bridle. Easily in her middle eighties, she had spoken the words, borrowed from poet John Milton, with a warm smile and in an affectionate tone. She halted in front of the man, bending over him, her lips puckered, and partially blocked by the oxygen hoses.


What would he do, I wondered, staring at the pair. Frankly, it was not a particularly romantic moment, not by Hollywood standards.


Lifting his face to hers, the man broke into a smile and puckered his lips. They kissed.


I don't remember what else she was talking about, but with a grunt, the old man hefted himself to his feet, and the couple walked slowly toward the exit. The last thing I heard was her breathy, though cheerful, chatter as they disappeared around the corner, hand in hand.


Left alone, with tears of joy mingled with deep sorrow, I contemplated the beauty of what I had just witnessed: a love that lasts through aging and wrinkles, through arthritic joints and lung disease. A man and his wife, after many decades of marriage, seeing past the wrinkles, the thinning hair, the oxygen tubes--and kissing on the high street.


Douglas Bond, author of more than thirty books (that include some kissing), directs the Oxford Creative Writing Master Class, serves as editor for authors and publishers, speaks at churches and conferences, and leads historical tours in Europe. Join him on the Rome to Geneva Tour, June 17-27, 2023, while space is still available.

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