Some years ago I was visiting my uncle while I was on holiday in the Czech Republic. Like most of my family, he lives about an hour north west of Prague. I was staying with him for a couple of days to get a breather from Prague city.
Although I’ve only seen him a handful of times in my life, he is hands down my favourite uncle. He is an engineer with a love of Italian art and culture, good wine and nature. And bonus, he can speak English. Great, as my Czech is rusty and quite honestly, quite poor. He is a great conversationalist and it is just nice to be in his company.
My visit brought out the tour guide in my uncle, so one evening just before the sun was about to set he gathered up his wife, his kids (my cousins) and me, and off we went for a three kilometre walk to the most scenic pub in town. This meant a steep climb through winding village streets. Oh, the beauty of those centuries old homes.
My aunty hadn’t been in the best of health these past few years, so she told us to go ahead and she’d follow slowly behind. We pushed on, my uncle regaling me with the history of the town while I puffed up the hill. It was quite steep and I thought I was pretty healthy, but it took a while to recover at the top. My uncle didn’t even break out a sweat and the climb didn’t seem to phase him at all.
After a minute or so I suggested we keep going. It was getting dark and cold. I was looking forward to sampling some Czech beer at the pub, and also, sitting down. “Let’s go, we’re nearly there!” My uncle smiled gently and said, “No, we will wait for my wife to catch up.”
I looked down the other side of the hill, saw no sign of my aunty, but did see a bunch of mosquitoes starting to mill around us in the growing dark. And it was getting quite dark.
I hate to admit it, although I didn’t show it I got quite annoyed. Why did we have to bring my unfit, slow aunty along? She had barely said a few words to me in the days I had spent with them and showed no real interest in wanting to catch up. I am also an impatient person. It is something I need to work on!
While I was batting away mosquitoes, my very shy, introverted cousin came to me and started speaking to me in English – something he had never done before. “Oh my god, you can speak English! You never told me!” I exclaimed excitedly. He told me that he had taught himself to speak English, a fact that I find astonishing.
After some banter, I finally spotted my aunty about to make the ascent up the hill. Based on her pace, it’d be another ten minutes before she reached us. “Ah, there she is! Shall we head on and meet her at the pub?” I asked.
My uncle, with a sweet look on his face, again turned to me and said that we’d just wait for her to catch up. Exasperated, and cold by this point, I asked him why.
“Because she is my wife. I love her. We will wait for her and walk into the pub together.”
I accepted this and was happy to wait. What was the rush anyway?
It wasn’t until years later that my uncle’s response really held any true significance to me. It wasn’t until I found someone I loved more than life itself, that I understood why my uncle insisted on waiting for his wife. She told us all to go ahead and she was happy to walk alone. She knew she’d hold us up, there was no way she could have kept up with our pace. She would have made it there eventually.
In sickness and in health. You can’t leave your loved ones behind. In a partnership, you are a true team. Everyone is equal.
Today I am thankful for my Czech uncle who taught me what a marriage should be like.