It was 6am, and I was pulling up to yet another coffee shop. This time in Tyler, Texas. I went in for coffee, preparing myself for the seven hour drive ahead. I’d left Kentucky the day before and made it as far as Tyler before I stopped for the night. I ordered my coffee and grabbed a table in the corner. I had a lot on my mind and needed to figure out my next move. I’d been ghostwriting for a particular book company, and things were beginning to unravel. Work was chaotic, and I was doing a lot of work and having serious issues with getting paid for it. Money was low and I knew the time had come to make a change. In fact, when I pulled out of Kentucky the day before I only had three-hundred dollars to my name, and more than 1,200 miles to my next stop. I probably shouldn’t have been going to a coffee shop, but it was one of the few indulgences I allowed myself and it went a long way toward keeping me somewhat sane.
I sat for awhile, typing away on my iPad and listening to music through my earbuds.
A few minutes after my arrival, an elderly man and woman came in, got their coffee, and sat in the comfy chairs next to my table. I smiled at them and kept typing. I noticed that the man talked to nearly everyone that passed. Many seemed to know him, which told me he was likely a regular. We were in the corner and away from most of the foot traffic, and I noticed he kept glancing over at me. He likely knew I wasn’t from the area, and I got the feeling he wanted to talk.
The sun began to lighten the dark sky, and I needed to get on the road. But, I felt drawn to the couple sitting next to me. I wanted to talk with them, even if only for a moment. I removed my earbuds and began packing away my things. The man noticed and said, “Are you heading out?”
“Yes sir. I’m headed to Odessa.”
“Ah yes, ol’ Odessa.” he said with a smile. “I used to work in the oil fields there when I was a teenager. I made .95 cents an hour.”
I continued talking with him and he told me many other stories from his life. He worked in the oil fields until he was drafted into the Army and sent to Korea. He served there as an engineer, building roads for the infantry. When he returned home from war, he met his wife and they married. Then, he got a job building Interstate 10 in Texas. These were the days when interstates were just being built. He ran a bulldozer and got paid $1.50 and hour. He went on to say that even though people make a lot more money these days, it’s all the same. Back when he made .95 cents an hour, a gallon of gas was around .15 to .18 cents a gallon. An average house was like $7k or so.
“People make more now, a lot more. But they pay a lot more too.”
Wise words, and in more ways than one.
His wife didn’t talk as much, but smiled often with a twinkle in her eye as her husband talked about all the things they had experienced in their life together. She did tell me that when her husband came home from a long day at work, he was so dirty that she made him undress in the garage. She giggled at the memory.
Listening to the story of their life together warmed my heart. It helped me realize that every experience we have, good or bad, is merely a chapter in the book of our lives. Surely, this couple had seen some hard times but the gleam in their eyes told me that they were still full of life and embracing every experience.
It wasn’t until I was leaving, 25 minutes later, that I asked them their names and shared mine. Franklin and Doris. 83 years old. They were beautiful people and I am so happy I took the time to talk with them and learn a little about their lives and hear their stories.
By the time I was on the road and headed west, my heart was happier and the burden I’d been carrying had become noticeably lighter.
Thank you Franklin and Doris. 🙏🏼❤️