Last week I traveled with my family to Germany for an incredibly special trip. In the Bavarian town of Oberammergau, we saw the Passion Play, which has been staged there every ten years since 1634. We paid our respects at Dachau Concentration Camp, where the Nazis murdered tens of thousands of Jews, physically and mentally handicapped, political prisoners, and others deemed “unfit.” We visited Kehlsteinhaus, also known as the Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s mountaintop retreat that the 101st Airborne Division captured in April 1945.
While in Bavaria, I met a wonderful couple named Frank and Gail. We became fast friends and they joined us for several legs of our journey. I learned they had been separately married for over forty years, but both their spouses died of cancer. A few years ago, Frank and Gail met at an LSU football game—four months later they were engaged, and the rest is history. I have never seen a couple more in love. Frank and Gail were constantly holding hands, praying the rosary together, and rubbing each other’s feet. It was like watching something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Seeing them together gave me so much hope for my marriage, as Jill and I enter our third decade together.
While we were driving up to the Eagle’s Nest, I asked Frank a simple question: “What do you love most about Gail?”
“Well, Tommy,” he said in his baritone voice. “I’m going to answer that question with a story. See, when Gail and I first got married, I was shocked to hear that she had never been to Paris. So, we decided right there and then to plan a trip for our honeymoon.”
Frank and Gail live in a small town in Louisiana, and it’s an hour drive to the nearest airport. “Frank, we should give ourselves enough time to get there two hours early,” Gail said while they were packing. “There might be traffic or a long line at security.”
Frank smiled and shook his head. “Trust me, honey, I’ve driven to Shreveport Airport hundreds of times. I know the way there like the back of my hand. If we leave when you want to, we’ll be sitting around at the gate for hours.”
“You can probably guess what happened,” Frank told me. “We had traffic. The security line took forever. We sprinted to the gate, but they had already closed the cabin door. We missed our flight. We had to wait four hours until the next flight to Atlanta, which meant we would also be missing our connecting flight to Paris.”
Frank looked me in the eye and said, “Tommy, what do you think Gail did when they slammed that gate in our face?”
I replied, “Well, if it were me, Frank, I would have said, ‘I told you so!’”
Frank put his arm around Gail. “Here’s what my wife did: She sat down, pulled out a deck of cards from her bag, and said, “Well, we have a few hours to burn, so let’s play some Gin Rummy!’”
“And that, Tommy, is what I love most about my wife.”
Gail had every right to yell, “I told you so!” and storm off. Thanks to Frank, they’d have one less day to spend in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. She could have said all sorts of awful words to her husband. Instead, Gail simply moved on and made the best of the situation. Yelling at Frank wouldn’t get them to Paris any faster, after all.
I’ve been thinking about that story ever since we said goodbye to Frank and Gail. It seems that when plans go sideways, our instinct is to blame other people. When someone screws up—even if we love them deeply—we get angry and say, “I told you so.” When you think about it, “I told you so” is one of the worst things you can say to somebody you love. It means you’re keeping score. It means you care more about winning than forgiving.
I think we should all try to be a little more like Gail in our day-to-day lives. Sometimes things don’t go our way. Sometimes the people we love make mistakes. Sometimes, yes, we are right, and they are wrong. But instead of saying that, what if we just bit our tongue? What if we focus on the future instead of dwelling on the past? What if we take our lead from a lovely woman from a small town in Louisiana and simply pull out a deck of cards rather than saying, “I told you so!”