Every morning on the way to work, I tune into Morning Edition on NPR to catch up on the news headlines, at least as much as is possible in 20 minutes.
This morning another story from StoryCorps was featured, and it brought a tear to my eye… something that almost never happens, frankly.
When I was a child, my grandmother began to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. I was old enough to have some memories of her before she began to suffer from memory loss, but I am the oldest of my siblings. Not all my siblings remember her before the disease as well as I do.
This morning’s story hit so close to home because it was an interview between an elderly married couple that is deeply in love after 60 years of marriage… and the man, Seymour, is beginning to suffer from the same disease that caused so much pain and suffering in my own family. But in spite of the disease, there is a deep, powerful connection between these two people, which reminded me of my own dear grandparents. My grandparents were and remain a deep source of inspiration for me as models of love, faithfulness, and commitment. Those same values are echoed in the story of Marcia and Seymour. So I thought I would share.
Marcia and Seymour Gottlieb have known each other for 60 years. The rat-a-tat-tat of the story the married couple tells about how they met sounds like George Burns and Gracie Allen — a beautifully crafted comedy routine.
Marcia: "Our journey started a long, long time ago."
Seymour: "Must I tell everybody you worked for me?"
Marcia: "It’s the truth!"
Seymour: "Well, she worked for me. She was the cashier."
You see, Seymour Gottlieb had needed another worker at his surplus store, and an employee had recommended her friend.
Seymour: "And here came old Marcia. I looked her over and said to myself, ‘Gee, what a funny-looking broad!’ But she has good credentials, she can count, so I said, ‘All right, I’ll give her a chance.’ "
The Gottliebs recorded their story in Los Angeles as part of the StoryCorps Memory Loss Initiative. Seymour has Alzheimer’s, but says he’ll never forget meeting that "funny-looking broad," Marcia.
Marcia: "Do you have any questions for me, kid?"
Seymour: "I have nothing to ask you. Everything about you — I think — I know. Your brassiere size, your dress size, and the true color of your hair … That’s a lot of baloney, that blond hair!"
But as with any good routine, there are moments of sentiment amid the laughs.
Seymour: "I’m very lucky to have my mate this long. Look at that beautiful face. When we first met … she didn’t have the wrinkles in her face. Now she’s a good-looking old lady. You know, the older you get, you have different needs from your mate, and she has met all of them."
Marcia: "Seymour … as old as you are …"
Marcia: "As big a fart as you are, I do love you!"
Seymour: "You do?"
Seymour: "Well, I can’t help it. I don’t know if medication will also help you.
"The longer I know her, the more I appreciate her, ’cause she’s my pal. She’s my best friend — not the best cook in the world, but she makes reservations very well."
And … scene!
(there’s also an audio file available for download, in which you can hear Seymour and Marcia interact… it’s a beautiful sound)