“Everyone has a story and I want to hear it!” What an awesome quote which will always remind me of my husband’s late Uncle Dick. A retired Air Force Colonel, he had a wonderful gift for storytelling (a gift that later came in handy when he volunteered as a docent at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum). But, more than his knack for storytelling, he was also gifted with engaging people and listening to their stories.
My husband has this gift too, so I wasn’t surprised when he introduced me to Neal, a fellow guest at the B & B where we were staying in New Smyrna Beach, FL. I walked onto the dock just as Neal was baiting the hook of a borrowed fishing pole. Michael began to tell me that Neal and his wife, Carol, had just driven down from Jacksonville to celebrate their wedding anniversary………THEIR 63rd!!!
As we exchanged the usual greetings, Neal began to tell us all about their life adventures. A former Staff Sargent in the Air Force, he met his wife in a small town in Alabama. Shortly, after becoming newlyweds they were stationed in Alaska (not exactly your ideal place to start a marriage).
As Neal continued to fish he spoke about life after the Air Force and how he used his G.I. Bill to go to college. With a chuckle in his voice he went on about his career in electronics and later his retirement from insurance. He retired at 63 because his CPA told him, “you both have your health, you are financially secure, go travel the world and enjoy your lives.” And so, they did!
As the afternoon sun began to drop and the water became still, Neal reeled in the fishing line and packed up his tackle box. We chatted as we walked off the dock and Neal invited us to join them later for cocktails on their balcony.
When we arrived, we were greeted with smiles and they offered us drinks as they pointed to the small suitcase below……a “traveling bar.” Packed with all of the necessities (vodka, rum and bourbon) Neal and Carol were well prepared to celebrate their anniversary. Michael and I looked at each, smiled and said to them “you sure do know how to travel!” To which, Neal responded with a wink and his trademark chuckle “it saves on travel costs if you bring your own liquor.”
We chatted for well over an hour as they both shared little stories about their life together. Stories about their first few months as newlyweds in Alaska; stories about their children and grand children; and stories about enjoying each other and making the most of life in retirement. Each were very sweet, touching and gentle reminders of the importance of cherishing your loved ones and the memories you make each and every day.
Life is a journey and people come and go along the way. Take the time to stop and talk to them even though they may be a stranger……..after all “Everyone has a story.”