On a recent morning breakfast at home, my wife had made several trips up and down from her chair at the kitchen table.
“After she sat down once again, I said to her, “On one of those trips, you could have filled my coffee cup.”
Her reply was immediate, leaving no doubt about her position on the subject.
“Well, you could have said something.”
Then she reminded me about how my parents handled this situation.
My parents were married from 1946 until my dad’s death in 1999, that’s 53 years.
I don’t remember a day when they didn’t have coffee several times during the day and best of all, when any relative, neighbor, or friend – which could be Ralph who picked up the eggs on his route, Doc the veterinarian, or Bob the feed salesman, it was a long list of people who were welcome at the kitchen table.
My mother always had a ready supply of food in the freezer to go with the coffee and they both enjoyed these visits and the conversation that went them.
The conversations flowed easily and somewhere my dad picked up the habit of lifting his coffee cup in his hand and holding it suspended above the table as a signal to my mother that his cup needed refilling.
I don’t think he wanted to interrupt the conversation with a request for a refill.
My mother would immediately rise to her feet, fetch the coffee pot, fill my dad’s cup as he still held it above the table and anyone else’s cup that was getting low.
That happened many times for many years without a word being said.
There are two ways to interpret this event. I believe the interpretation will depend on the generation of the person making the decision.
A younger generation would be upset at my dad for being so presumptuous as to treat his wife with the sort of regard given to a lowly servant.
They would also be upset with my mother for giving in so easily to a nonverbal gesture so closely resembling a command.
My parent’s generation would probably have the attitude of, “If he needs coffee, then get the pot.”
Hospitality was a high priority to my parents who did not see this as a power struggle between right and wrong.
So, is this a matter between right and wrong?
I won’t say it is right or wrong because both positions could be right, but more importantly, neither position is wrong.
I believe I know my mother well enough to say that she was happy to fill my dad’s coffee cup with a simple signal of his holding up his cup for her to refill it, because she knew there were many other times he would be the one to help her with a project where she needed his expertise.
It was one of the reasons they were married for 53 years.
As for my wife and myself, I believe when my coffee cup goes empty in the future, I will walk to the coffee maker, fill it myself and ask my wife if she is in need of any more coffee while I am up.
Of course, one of us at any time can just raise our cup, hold it above the table and see what happens.
I am betting on a smile and trip to the coffee maker for one of us, resulting in two full cups of coffee.
We have 30 years to go to make 53.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.
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