We were wrecked when we arrived in Regina. Though we got up early, the traffic to the airport was sluggish and we worried about making the flight. At the airport they tell us that the flight is oversold, as all of them are that day, and we may not make it at all. We sit and stew waiting to find if we are even going at all. Finally we get aboard. In all the rush we forgot breakfast, not a big deal but I'm diabetic. It was about to become a big deal.
About an hour from landing, I check my blood and I had very low blood sugar. That would explain the sweating and the feeling that my conciousness was slowly detaching itself from the inside corners of my brain. I hit a button and asked the fight attendant for something with sugar. You see I had my handy dandy emrao taken away (emrao = emergency rations orange juice) because I might use it to blow up the plane. I was given a cookie. Hmmmm.
So by the time we got the car and checked in, we were hungry and tired. The hotel suggested we try a Smitty's restaurant just a few blocks away. We found it easily but there was a problem. The restaurant was designed to be all booths with a narrow walkway in between. We tucked me into the table but that still left me taking up much of the walkway which meant other customers and the wait staff had to step way around me.
We ordered something wildly bad for you and waited. From where I could sit I could see all the tables on both sides and right into the kitchen. In the table behind us were four elderly people. The man looked to be the oldest, a dignified old guy who looked as if he could have passed nails to Noah before the spring rain, and he sat next to a woman I presumed to be his wife. Across from them were two women and the four of them made up a fine group of friends. Like good friends, the were good company, the conversation flew thick and fast.
Then the wife spoke. It was unmistakable in her voice. She had a cleft palate. I knew that voice from childhood when there was a little girl who had a cleft palate at school for a very short time. I don't know where she disappeared to, but school was not a kind place to her and I imagined anywhere else was better than here. The woman spoke however fully in her own voice. It was as if the years of speaking differently, in her own peculiar accent, had made her truly defiant. As if the stares and the sniggers didn't bring shame but something else - an odd pride. Shame had been polished away and that voice spoke with ease amongst her friends.
The man, though, was a little different. The reason I think he was her husband was because when I heard her voice, I instinctively looked over. Like everyone else would. But for me it was just noting someone else in the room who stuck out a bit. I stuck out from the table, she stuck out at the table. Cool. But when I glanced over I met his hard, hard eyes. He was a frail old guy and he looked like an old guard dog that was ready to do one more battle if he needed to. I just smiled at him, he didn't smile back. He just slid along the booth closer to her. A statement that she was his, he loved her, and I had better watch myself.
I quickly looked back down at my meal. How wonderful is that? He loves her. Still. He wants to protect her, still. They must have faced down such prejudice when they married. I remember the couple who lived next to us when I was a kid, she had a club foot and he a handsome face - it was a pairing that the town could not tire talking about. And here, again, I could see what a loved formed in adversity looks like years later.