You may recall I wrote a column in which I confessed shedding my worldly stuff to prepare for my cross-country move was just a ruse to update my material world. I should have waited until after our move to publish that column, because the jig is up.
I had big plans to ditch our queen-sized bed and buy a new King-sized waterbed with duel heaters but, thanks to my column on stuff, I'm not going to get a King-size anything. My wife says that we don't need anything that big.
I tried to explain it using the Norris paraphrase of the "Field of Dreams" principle. Instead of "build it and they will come," I like to say, "Buy it and I will grow." The principle works just like Murphy's law, which says "time expands to fill work," but in my case, I figure given enough super-size fries, "a man's girth will expand to fill a bed."
My wife will tell you my real problem is not the size of the bed, but my constant movement that propels me to every corner by night's end. She should really buy me one of those adjustable beds that promise the flexibility of a hospital bed with enough positions to eliminate my all-night squirming.
The problem is hospital beds aren't made to be comfortable. This is the day of managed care, and your discharge planner is never planning your comfort. If she could prove a bed of nails that would allow quick discharge, you would have one.
And don't even think about comfort in an emergency room. Think gurney -- eight hours of gurney. They want you to think twice before coming to the ER for a stomachache. An honest charge nurse will just come out and tell you, "It's the flu, honey. Get over it or enjoy your gurney!"
When you are shopping for beds, don't buy anything comparable to a hospital bed. I see a lot of people in hospital beds, and they rarely seem comfortable -- especially when two are sharing the bed as was one such couple I encountered.
I must admit that while they didn't seem comfortable, it was rare to encounter a couple who radiated such beauty. It happened when a nurse directed me to the room of an 89-year-old man who had died in her unit.
The new widow was in the room with her family.
The room was filled with family pictures and mementos that intentionally communicated to the staff this man was not to be identified by a room number or diagnosis. He had a name, a life and a family that loved him.
The bed swallowed the frame of this slight man enough to allow his wife to perch on a small edge in the top corner of the mattress. She leaned into his stiff, sagging shoulder and held his hand while caressing his arm. His eyes were closed and his mouth open.
As I sat and talked with the family, the wife told me she had shared a bed with this man for 58 years. During all of that time, the couple had used only a double bed -- not a queen or king -- just a double bed. Now she was wondering how cold the night would get without him.
"I just can't understand it," she said. "So many of our friends buy these big beds. They say they need the room. The beds are so big, you lose each other."
Her amazement made her friends' beds sound like the Grand Canyon , not a simple king-size waterbed with duel heaters.
She told me there was always enough room in their bed, because from the moment they slid in, both had their emotional compass set for a lifelong commitment. In the center of the bed, they found each other's hand and, so entwined, peaceful sleep came easily.
Now, in front of us that afternoon, a permanent peace had also come easily. He was resting, and, at her advanced age, she was likely to join him soon in a place where their souls would become permanently entwined.
As I looked at this couple, it occurred to me while I had seen the pageantry of many formal weddings with couples elegantly dressed, it was rare to see the beauty I was witnessing here. This was the final fulfillment of vows taken by a couple that meant what they said, when the promised "for better or for worse, 'til death do us part." The marriage that had begun with this vow had been fulfilled with the keeping of the vow.
Through the years, I have heard a lot of reasons for breaking those vows. Perhaps Jesus hit the nail on the head when he explained Moses had been forced to approve the breaking of marital vows because of hardness of hearts. Somehow, I think this couple discovered hard hearts are softened in smaller beds.
Well, all our stuff is in a truck making its way down Interstate 10 on its way to Sacramento , Calif. We brought all the stuff -- everything from tinker toys to washing machines. And somewhere wedged between a dresser and a washing machine is an old bed that will be our nightly meeting place for years to come.