Lennie and Al share some stories about their incredible life together with Chris Wilkinson, left. (Chris Wilkinson photo)

Lennie and Al share some stories about their incredible life together with Chris Wilkinson, left. (Chris Wilkinson photo)

Chris Wilkinson column: Lennie and Al show us what life is all about

Lennie and Al met in 1952

By Chris Wilkinson

Have you ever met someone where you immediately feel like you’ve met someone special? It happened to me recently — except that it was two special people at once! It’s a privilege to share with you and write about Lennie and Al, wife and husband of nearly 70 years. Two incredible people.

I was introduced to Lennie and Al through a friend of mine at the bank. Their daughter. As I work in seniors care and always appreciate meeting good people, their daughter Nancy suggested that I meet them.

The moment I walk into their home, I feel totally welcomed. That warm home with lots of memories and pictures and love. Two people who, by the love they have for each other and their family, give off this sense of “you’re welcome here and we care about you no matter who you are”, right from the start.

Over the next two hours we shared such great conversation. It felt like the famous book title, Chicken Soup for the Soul. I get to hear their stories. I have some questions. They tell me about some of their most memorable times. They laugh. I laugh. We share family stories. I ask more questions about their experiences. How they met. What they think defines a ‘successful life’. So much great discussion. So many amazing and impressionable stories.

Lennie and Al met in 1952. Al had started his Stag barber shop in Maple Ridge a year earlier. One day at the barber shop, out of nowhere, Al saw this beauty in a fancy coat and high heels walking by. He instantly knew she wasn’t a local, and he had that feeling that he needed to know who she was. He asked around. Found out who she was. And in some funny twist to the story, Al was actually supposed to go out on a date with Lennie’s then-roommate, and when the roommate wasn’t home, Al asked Lennie to go out. They were married the following year. Meant to be.

So many great stories Lennie and Al shared. Some of the public figures that Al grew up with, played soccer with, and barbered for. Dances every weekend. How proud they are of their children and grandchildren. And one story about driving back from C’oeur d’Alene, Idaho, back when the Fraser Canyon had some very dubious stretches of wooden sections barely a lane wide, and the driver in the car ahead of Lennie and Al was paralyzed with fear at a particularly dangerous point. Al ended up offering up his help and driving the fellow’s car and family all the way to Hope. Who would do that? Al would. And did.

One of my favourite stories was about how Lennie was an avid roller skater as a young girl and even traveled around Alberta as part of the roller skating shows. Just like Ice Capades, but on wheels! She described this trick where her skating partner would twirl her around in circles and she would have a wooden match in her mouth, striking it and lighting in on the ground as she was being twirled. Who could do that? Lennie could. And did.

For years, later on, Lennie and Al had a sailboat and were gypsies of the sea. Some amazing memories from that sailboat, including a story about a perilous storm that we’ll have to save for another day.

The piece that stuck out most for me about Lennie and Al though, was how they shared their stories, together. How they laughed with each other about all the amazing experiences they’ve had, together. And some that they had individually too! And I think that’s what shows especially how much they love each other. When one had an invite to go away for a week, the other person would be so supportive and make sure they had the best time! Lennie went on retreats to California with friends and Al would always be supportive, making sure Lennie had everything she needed for a safe and fun excursion. The amount of love, respect, admiration, and appreciation they express for each other, and their family, is beyond heartwarming. Who does that? They do.

And while Lennie and Al would say that they’ve survived a few storms in their time — some weather and some metaphorical — they would also say they are so grateful for the people they’ve met, the times they’ve had, and the experiences they’ve amassed and shared. And it ain’t over! Not by a long shot. In their mid-90s they remain active. Healthy. Connected. Engaged.

When I asked Lennie and Al what ‘living a great life’ meant to them they used terms like, ‘family’, ‘surrounded by great people’, ‘enjoy and appreciate every day’, ‘gratitude’, ‘getting out in the garden’, and ‘being active’. Al added a poignant piece of advice at the end of our chat too. He said, “and say yes as often as you can”.

That is such sage advice Lennie and Al. All of it. Thank you so much for sharing it all with me. You’ve made quite the impression.

Lastly, one final quote Lennie and Al shared — it’s hanging on a wall in their home — “Never regret growing old, it’s a privilege denied to many.”

Chris Wilkinson is the owner/GM for Nurse Next Door Home Care Services for Cowichan and central Vancouver Island. For more info visit www.NurseNextDoor.com or for questions or a free in-home caring consult call 250-748-4357, or email Chris.Wilkinson@NurseNextDoor.com

ColumnSeniors