It was fajitas and a hamburger at Chili’s on that first one back in 1996- you know Chili’s- the restaurant for lovers. “Always date each other,” we were told, so I just assumed everyone else did. At least once a week, almost religiously, for 20 years Tiffanni and I have dated. Chili’s, ball games, picnics, food courts, movies, ballets, drive-ins, state parks, the theater, concerts, day drives, Christmas light looking, lakes, malls, lots of dang malls [sigh], Walmarts, skating rinks, museums, we dated. It was always my job to be the date planner. I think I assumed the role and went with it. I need variety and choices by personality, so dates were always an adventure. From geo-caching at a state park to an NHL Hockey game on our first anniversary (not sure what I was thinking), a random adventure was always a possibility.
Dates have changed a little lately. We still do them, but the random has turned in to the routine. Not out of boredom or laziness, but out of simplicity and necessity. There are only so many things that you can do with our mobility challenges, and quite possibly, I think we turned old overnight. So Fridays are Date Days and it’s Dairy Queen and a movie. Not some Fridays, every Friday. Dairy Queen offers the convenience of close proximity to the movies (where we get our variety) and Tiffanni loves the chicken fingers. To be honest, I eat the average food to get to dessert. We love our blizzards.
A few weeks ago we were at Dairy Queen and a couple of older ladies noticed us. I thought they were staring because I was feeding Tiffanni each bite (which is pretty common- both), but finally one looked at me and said, “Is your name Jeremy?” I responded with, “Yes”, to which they began to tell me about their church that I happened to preach in a few months before. They said they enjoyed it, but really, is there anything else that you could say sitting at the next table at Dairy Queen? “Listen Jeremy, you’re going to have to step it up. You can’t exegete scripture very well and you need some help closing- like do it a lot sooner.” So we chatted about the church and my family. Eventually, as old people do, they asked the inevitable question. “If you don’t mind me asking, what’s wrong with Tiffanni?”
The truth is that I don’t mind people asking. I don’t really care what their motives are, nosiness or concern, I’ll answer. So I told them about Huntington’s Disease which neither of them had heard of before. “It’s an ugly neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement, mood, and cognition.” We talked a bit more and heard several additional, “Bless your hearts,” and continued our meal. Finally the big payoff came and they delivered our blizzards. The best part of the whole day. My mouth watered as they turned the blizzard upside down to show me how secure and cold it was. I always think, “Just put it down. If it falls out we’re going to have to sit here while you go make another one.” They placed Tiffanni’s oreo blizzard in front of her and my salted caramel truffle blizzard in front of me. My stomach growled and my taste buds pulsed. Just as I picked up the spoon, I heard the inevitable words from behind me, “Would you mind if we prayed for you?”
Look, I’m a preacher. I always want prayer, but something about the white hair and buns told me that this wasn’t going to be a short, “God bless them.”
“Sure,” I said. And they gathered around our table and placed their hands on us. And they prayed. And they prayed some more. And they kept praying. It wasn’t loud, but it was long. So long. Tears, tongues, and taking turns, they covered everything that you can think of. When they ran out of English, they didn’t run out of praying. I get it. Some people have to do something. Some people have to try to help alleviate our pain or their own emotional dissonance. In my world it’s usually prayer. Sometimes it’s more tangible things, but people do stuff. They have to.
After what felt like forever, the ladies wiped their tears, wrapped their grandmother arms around us, and said, “Goodbye, we’ll be praying for you.” And in my most human of moments, I looked down at the table and noticed my own tear well up in my eye. The result of our prayer, two melted puddles of blizzard.