Lou and Bee

October 11th, 2010

They buy bananas together. He holds the left side of the cart, and she the right.

I see them one day at Whole Foods, and he proudly tells me that they have the best bananas around.

“They’re organic,” she chimes in.

I watch as they walk away, and can’t help but smile at how adorable they look. He, in his khaki pants, pulled up to the top of his hunched-over chest, and all five feet of her, shuffling along in checkered pants and pearls.

Whether in the grocery store or in my apartment building, they are always together. Always smiling. Most of the time, he is asleep in whatever chair he is sitting in, and she is reading a book, or looking out into the garden. Every time I look at them, I think they look like the kind of couple who has a lifetime of stories to share.

Today, I decided to ask them.

Lou and Bee have been married 72 years.

They met while playing basketball at the YMHA (Young Men’s Hebrew Association) in St. Louis.

Lou recalls an immediate attraction, book-ended by a sad realization.

“She didn’t want any part of me,” he says.

Bee was involved with someone else at the time, but recalls Lou being quite persistent.

“He said when he saw me, he knew he’d marry me, but I never knew that,” she laughs.

His persistence paid off.

They dated just five months, and were married January 8, 1938.

Lou was in the service for 27 months, not long after they were married, and their first child was born when he was away. He wrote Bee letters all the time, and she kept every one of them.

They never argue. Bee says Lou would just clam up anyway, so there was really no point.

Lou says there really wasn’t ever anything worth fighting over.

“So much of it is simple respect,” he adds.

They have always spoken so sweetly to one another. Lou takes care of her. In fact, Bee has had a few falls, and her health has gotten a lot worse, so they have learned to share their lives with one other person — Bee’s caregiver.

She comes a few hours a day – enough time to allow Lou to have his daily breakfast of scrambled eggs, an English muffin and fruit at First Watch (“Their breakfast-type food is so good,” he remarks), and then volunteer at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

They used to meet a couple every Saturday for lunch, but not so much anymore.

Instead, Lou keeps a careful eye on Bee, who mostly stays on the couch, staring into a garden she once used to watch from a much closer angle. But she doesn’t let it get her down.

“Everybody’s got something,” she says. “You don’t get out of this world as easy as you got in.”

But, then, you don’t always get in or out of this world with a partner like Lou by your side.

“If you’re lucky enough to live a long life like we have, and live it together, you have nothing to complain about,” Bee says.

I think for a moment about what she said. About being lucky to travel through life with the same person – for more than 70 years. Someone who sits next to you on the couch and stares out into the garden with you, even though he could walk out there and get a closer look. Someone who drives you around the city on architectural tours, and makes you bagels when your hands are shaking too much. Someone who knew, the day he saw you, that he wanted to spend the rest of his life talking to you. Someone who has neck arthritis, but still turns to look at you when you speak.

“We manage pretty well,” Lou shrugs.

Sure sounds like it to me.