Antonio and Doris, an elderly couple at Mount St. Joseph convalescent home where my mother spent her final days in December of 2006, often sat next to each other in their wheelchairs out by the tinsel-and-Christmas-light-decorated nurses’ station.

Antonio had an impressive Italian face and the kindest smile. For whatever reason, he never said much.

Doris was thin and fragile, with the bluest eyes and the most beautiful head of white hair, always well kept. She would daintily sip tea as Antonio waited on her. Like Antonio, she never said much, but when she did, she spoke softly, although sometimes her words were addled. Nonetheless, Doris looked entirely smitten to be sitting out in the hallway next to Antonio. It was almost as if she had a girlish crush on him. When Doris sat next to Antonio and smiled lovingly at him, he held his head up and looked awfully proud. I thought to myself how they made such a very nice couple. It was just too bad they had to wait so long to meet each other, in a convalescent home, of all places.

A couple of times when I passed them in the hallway, I would offer Doris a Christmas cookie. ”Oh no, why, I never, but thank you,” she responded sweetly. I offered a Christmas cookie to Antonio. Antonio smiled and tipping his head in acknowledgement of my gift replied, “Why thank you,” and picked two cookies from the box. As I walked away, he handed one of the cookies to Doris. “Why thank you,” she whispered as she brightly smiled and graciously accepted the cookie from Antonio.

After Christmas, after my mom left this world, I took some unopened tins of Christmas cookies out of her empty room. In the hallway, I spotted Antonio and Doris sitting in their wheelchairs, holding hands like a couple of lovebirds. The lights on the Christmas tree atop the counter shimmered as Bing Crosby's White Christmas sounded smoothly from a CD player. I handed the tins of cookies to Antonio and wished him a Happy New Year. Antonio thanked me profusely. Doris's pretty blue eyes twinkled.

The kindly middle-aged Hispanic priest who gave my mom the last rites on her final night was out at the nurses’ station jotting down notes. I tried, but couldn't remember Father's name. He walked to me, clenched my shoulder, paused and said, “I hope your Christmas was well.” He added, “Don't worry. I tried, but I can't remember your name either.” He laughed and patted me on the back.

Then the priest asked, “Say, do you know Antonio?”

“Hardly, but I like his face,” I replied.

“But you know something Father,” I said in a low tone as I pointed to Doris, “I think Doris has a crush on Antonio.”

The good priest smiled sentimentally as he gazed at the couple. “Oh, she's a bit finicky,” he mused, “but she has good taste. She took a liking to Antonio right away when he first came here a few months ago. Sitting in the hallway with Antonio is the high point of her day. And he really took a liking to her as well. They really hit it off. What a pair!”

As the priest gathered his prayer book, rosary, and hat from the countertop, he grinned and reflectively added, “Yeah, she must have really picked the right guy. They don't remember anymore, but they've been married to each other for sixty-two years.”

Van der Hout, who lives in Southeast Portland, attends St. Pius X Church and Mount Angel Abbey.