This is my worst nightmare. These have been the most difficult days of my life. Never have I ever felt the anguish that I am experiencing at this moment. My love, my passion, my partner in life, has gone. I wake in the morning and roll over to discover anew that I will never wake beside her beautiful smiling face ever again. Life feels meaningless without my love and my heart aches every second of every day since she has passed. I don’t understand how this could have happened. There weren’t any signs. There weren’t any indications that she was in danger. One minute she’s sitting in the garden smiling and telling me how much she enjoys the beauty of our flowers and the next she is looking up at me from the ground frightened and with concern in her eyes. It happened so fast…
Looking towards the garden, he notes the trampled flowers where the paramedics worked to save his wife and the weeds springing back faster than the flowers can. The rich earth scattered about his lawn leaving behind the tracks of the gurney leading to his back gate. ‘I will be seeing you soon, my love. I need to see you. I can’t stand it my love; I will be with you soon.’
‘Gah! Another full sink! Why can’t people put their dishes in the dishwasher?’ “I’m getting tired of cleaning up other peoples dishes! ...I WANT SOMEONE TO ACKNOWLEDGE ME!” Getting no answer she sighs to herself remembering that the rest of the family are not at home. She picks up the dish cloth from the counter and slings it over her shoulder, starts filling the sink with water, and opens the dishwasher to find a clean load glistening back at her. “GAH! Google, play chill playlist on kitchen speaker.”
Looking up from the dishwasher she sees her youngest staring back at her wide eyed with a questioning look on his face. “Go outside honey. We will leave in a few minutes, I need to take care of this before we go to the park. And please don’t bother Mr. Newton today. He’s had a very tough morning and doesn’t need you under foot.” She watches her little one wonder out the door into the back yard and climb into the swing near the neighbor’s fence. She watches him for a minute and notices him straining to see over the fence on his upswing. ‘That nosey little sneak! He better listen to me and not bother Mr. Newton today.’
Feeling her frustration start to diminish as a familiar song reaches its chorus she turns her attention back to the task at hand turning off the water and reaching into the dishwasher.
Looking up from the letter he is writing Newton sees that the next door neighbor’s son is crouching on the roof of his playset staring at him through the leafless dead branches on one if his apple trees. He feels his frustration rising and squints at the child adopting what he hopes is a non-friendly scowl. ‘Great, just what I need right now. Why did they have to put that playset up against my fence!?! That little snot just stares at us all day. They should teach him to respect people’s privacy. Parents are too lenient these days!’ “Get down from there and leave me alone. It’s rude to stare at people and it’s even worse to be staring at people in their back yard. It’s their private space. GO ON WITH YOU!”
The boys head disappears back behind the chipped fence. He sighs and picks up his pen again. His frustration being replaced by grief. His concentration once again focused on writing his letter.
The change to her face and demeanor was instant. Her lovely smile being replaced with confusion and concern complaining that she wasn’t able to see. She couldn’t understand what I was asking her and then she fell to her side as if her legs just stopped working. She just held her hands out in front of her trying to grasp on to something…anything. I knew what had happened before my brain registered that this wasn’t just a terrible nightmare. I knew that this was serious. In that single instant I knew that our life was changed. I knew that my life was forever going to be different, but I didn’t know that she wouldn’t be there with me… I can’t continue without her. I’m old enough and have had a wonderful life and I love all of you, but need to be with my love.
‘Oh god, I’m so tired. I’m so sorry that I couldn’t help you my love. I feel so guilty. I feel so lonely. It won’t be long now. I can’t wait to be by your side once more.’
Using the fence post as a ladder he climbs up and perches on the top of the fence momentarily, aiming his drop to the grass in amongst the flowers of his neighbor’s garden. He’s happy his aim was good. Old Man Newton loves his flowers. He picks himself up and brushes his hands across his shorts to smooth out the wrinkles and looks toward ‘Old Man Newton.’
‘I don’t think he likes to be called that though.’ The boy thinks. ‘That’s just what my brother calls him when he’s not around. It’s always Mr. Newton to his face though. I think my brother might be a bit scared of him… He did look a little scary when I was looking over the fence… Not mad exactly… more Sad/Mad. And that’s worse.
When my dog ran away last week. I was mad at my brother for letting him out without the leash and sad that I wouldn’t be able to cuddle with him any longer. Sad/Mad. My brother didn’t mean to let him out. I knew that it wasn’t really his fault…
I could do what mom did. That made me feel better.’ Making up his mind, he smiles to himself and takes a step towards Old Man Newton.
Considering the page he’s just written, Newton places his pen reverently across it and looks up into the eyes of the young boy standing not three feet in front of him. His neighbours boy he just moments ago told to leave him alone. Feeling his face flush slightly, he stares mouth agape. ‘I don’t believe it. He actually came over the fence!’
Controlling his mounting anger, he closes his mouth and states through gritted teeth, “I don’t know what possessed you to climb over the fence, you’ve never done it before and I thought you knew how much we covet our privacy. This is unacceptable.” Newton, intending to stand, pauses with his hands on the arm rests, the colour draining from his face as he realises he said “we” instead of “I.”
Without a word, the little boy slowly walks towards him, climbs into his lap, and wraps his arms around Old Man Newton’s neck.
She places the dishcloth down as the song ends. ‘OK, let’s find that little bugger and get to the park to let some steam out.’ Glancing out the window she surveys an empty back yard. “…oh no…” She exclaims under her breath, feeling panic set in. She raises onto her tip toes looking out the window to see over the fence into the neighbor’s garden and sees her son climbing off Mr. Newton’s lap and running towards the fence. She opens the back door and dashes out into the yard, jogging over to the swing set.
As she gets closer, she sees a tiny hand appear over the top of the fence and a mop of messy blond hair peak over a half second later. Glancing over the fence again she sees Mr. Newton holding his face in his hands, his shoulders slightly moving up and down with silent sobs. Horrified, she focuses back to her son and he swings a leg over the top just as she reaches him.
“What are you thinking!?! I thought I asked you not to bother Mr. Newton today. What did you do? What did you say!?!” Grunting slightly with effort, she helps him the rest of the way over and crouches down to his level. Her anger rising as she waits for an answer.
“I didn’t say anything momma… at least not at first. Old Man Newton was Sad/Mad. I remember what that feels like. I was just helping him cry.”
Lifting his head from his hands and wiping his cheeks dry with his handkerchief, he looks down and studies the written page in front of him.
A small familiar movement catches his attention. Focusing back to the garden he notices the slight breeze making the flowers in her garden sway, he notes the way the sunlight lights her garden in patches through the branches of the apple trees laden with fruit, notices the flitter of butterfly’s and bees enjoying the sweet nectar, he sees the little boy disappear over the fence and catches a worried glance from his mother. ‘They are doing a wonderful job with that boy.’ He thinks.
‘My love, I miss you with every breath I take. I will always love you. You will always be with me in my thoughts. I will see you soon enough, but not yet. Not yet. The sun is shining, the garden needs weeding, the apples need harvesting, and a little boy has invited me to the park.’
Standing, he picks up the paper, crumples it and tosses it in the trash on his way towards his neighbor’s home and the little boy who lives there.