Yesterday is the first time in weeks I have seen and spent lots of time with John. It was wonderful. I was a little worried that he might bring his daughter, but I needn't have worried. He was alone...with me...in the midst of hundreds of other ham radio operators and geek toys and frills. It was a good day.
When he saw me standing beside the line his eyes lit up and he smiled like a kid who just got what he wanted for Xmas. He waved and came over to me. I told him he needed to get into the shorter line to pay and he came back with his raffle ticket and ubiquitous canvas bag. I took the bag while he filled out the raffle ticket and we chatted. He kept smiling down at me and clenching the handle of his bag when I handed it back, clenching it like he needed to keep his hands occupied because they wanted to do something else, something they can't do in public, especially around people who have known him for so many years and know he's married -- and not to me. Soon the line started moving and we moved with it down the hall, through the door and into the gymnasium, doubling as an exhibit hall. We circled and talked, looked and touched, asked and answered questions, riding the tides of people along the aisles, separated at times and close together at others. We saw some people we know and he introduced me to some people he knows and we drifted and floated with the tides until both of us had seen all there was to see and we needed to find sunlight and a place to sit.
Outside we bumped into more people we and he knew and he introduced me again. Footsore, I wandered over to the shade and sat on a bench while he chatted with his friends. Then he came up to me and asked if I'd like to sit in the sunshine, so we did. I sat and he stood until I told him he could sit next to me. He did. We sat on the edge of the cement pylon, close but not touching, keeping a careful distance between us, chatting and talking and teasing each other with smiles and laughter. Then an older woman came and sat down across from us. She talked about her husband and his call sign (ending with UOH which she turned into Ugly Old Ham) and their travels as missionaries. She kept looking at us and smiling as we jibed and teased each other as we talked with her. Just before she left she said something unimportant, but her last words were to us as a couple. I suddenly understood her looks and smiles. They were the same smiles a person who is part of a happy couple, a couple who is comfortable with themselves and each other, gives another happy couple.
Before the missionary came to sit by us there had been a white-haired old guy who leaned heavily on his cane sitting beside us and caught part of our conversation on antennas. He jumped in with suggestions of what antennas to use and we talked about antennas for a while before he smiled at us and said he'd leave us to enjoy the sunshine together.
Even though most of the people in John's radio amateur club know he's married, there is the sense of them looking at us and treating us as a couple. Maybe they think I'm his wife. They haven't ever seen her. She never comes to the ham functions. Some of them know I'm an old friend, but I still get the impression that they see and think of us as a couple because that is how they treat us.
Such was the case with Mike Anderson.
Mike even asked us if we were married when we were teasing each other sitting in the testing room before the examinees got there. John looked at me and smiled but then he said that we were just old friends. I said we had known each other since sixth grade and John amended that we had a big gap in our friendship of 30 years. Mike said the gap didn't show.
More and more I notice that people do treat and see us as a couple, a harmonious pair who have rubbed along happily together for years. In some ways we have but in another sense we are just getting to know each other's history and lives, getting to know who we are as opposed to who we were as children and teens. Still, there is a sense of easy familiarity that strangers and friends see and recognize even though we tell them we are not married.
It is only a matter of time before what people recognize in us becomes reality for us. We live for that day. But for now what we have and what we share is acceptance of us as a couple.