Listen, he thought. Just listen. It was beautiful, this late afternoon. He could hear the birds and he loved this time of year. Just the beginning of what was going to be another hot summer. It was still nice though. Not too hot yet.
He went to the flower shop and bought a bouquet of spring flowers. He liked these best. They reminded him of her happy personality. Bright, overflowing with color, ready to be loved, they were perfect for her. He drove to their place to set everything up by the big tree. It cast such wonderful shade. He knew she liked it. He set about cleaning up. Pruning the grass down where he liked to sit. He may have seemed a bit fussy to some, but these were his ways. Everything had to be just so for her. Always as perfect, he felt, as things could be.
They had known each other for a long while now. So many years. They had seen the world change together. So many things had happened in their lifetimes. They watched the big bridge get built. They lived through WWII. So much time, so many things that they saw happen together. They used to have a great time driving everywhere in his old beat up jalopy. The old car had worn out floor boards and you could see the highway passing underneath them. They had to be careful not to stick their feet through. The 1940’s were long gone now. But they had done it and done it together.
He carefully set down a folded blanket to sit on, careful to keep it smooth for her. He arranged the flowers. Sighing, he closed his eyes and offered up a little prayer.
“I knew you wouldn’t forget,” she said, sitting down on the carefully folded blanket. “The flowers are beautiful.”
“Like you honey.” He smiled a small smile. She gazed at him as if she couldn’t get enough of his sweet face. He had gotten old. Lines wreathed his face. His old ball cap was stained from working outside in the sun for so many years. His shirt was clean but in need of a mending. She smiled to herself. She never could get him to get rid of his old work shirts.
“Say, do you remember that time we took the boys to visit the family and you were so scared they were going to fall out of the bottom of the car you sat in back with the them the whole trip?”
She chuckled at the memory. He had been thinking of his old jalopy again. He was remembering more of the what was and less of the what is. She made sure she didn’t let him get out of her sight too often.
“What made you think of that? That old car had been an accident waiting to happen.”
“Yeah, but she always got us where we were going, now didn’t she?” he was lost in his memories. Pulling bits of this and that out for them to examine and reminisce over.
“I seem to remember someone hanging onto my arm and laughing like a loon even though she was scared.” He peered at her from under his cap.
“Alright, you got me there. We’ve had some fun, haven’t we?” the setting sun seemed to make her glow. He was entranced and just gazed at her, loving her softly curling hair and her bright brown eyes.
“We have at that. Going on driving trips to see your brother and his family in Colorado and then your other brother in New Mexico. I sure miss those days. Your brothers always treated me good. It was nice when they came to visit us too.”
“It was. I miss my brothers. We are going to see them soon though. I think it’s time to take one last trip. What do you think? Are you ready for one last trip?”
“That sounds like a good time. I am ready for that” he said happily. She always knew the right things to say. She was the great planner. He was just the driver. He had never learned to read or write and was dependent on her for anything to do with reading. It was pretty frustrating for him. But she made everything alright. She never made him feel stupid either. He would move Heaven and Earth for her. He loved her so much that it hurt. But he would never tell her that. She already knew.
“It is so peaceful here. I’m glad we picked this spot.” she said, sighing and looking around. Even in the early summer it was still softly green.
“Me too.” He was falling into his memories faster now. Seeing her when she was so young and beautiful. He always saw her as she was back then. The soft, black, waves framing her face so sweetly. Sometimes he remembered her when she looked like a movie star from the 1950’s. She was amazing. So many different looks, such beauty, such heart and so much love to give everyone. But it was he that was blessed. She chose him over all the others.
This tiny, beautiful little human stick of dynamite had chosen him. He with the big clumsy hands and short temper with things he couldn’t make work on the first try, she had chosen him. She gave him a new life, a new way of thinking things through. She taught him so much over the years. They raised their children, were blessed with many grandchildren and even great grandchildren. They had done so much together. Always together.
She was right though. One more great trip. They needed to do one last time. The sun was almost down.
“Come on,” she stood up and held her hand out to him. The sun was directly behind her and shone around her so brightly that her figure was almost diaphanous. He took her hand and rose easily to his feet. Almost, but not quite surprised he realized that he felt years dropping off of him. She gazed up at him her eyes full of love.
“I never thought this would happen. It has been so many years honey.” He was almost in tears but they were tears of joy and not sorrow.
“Will it hurt?”
“Only those left behind. We will always be with them though.”
He brought her hand to his lips and softly kissed it. They turned towards the setting sun and he glanced back. They would find him here. They always did. This time he wouldn’t be going back though.
Don’t be afraid, he thought. As though she heard him say it out loud, she said,