Saturday, October 15, 2011
I sit at my chair, next to the window. Looking out over the small side street that I've called home for 40 years. The trees look like flaming signals of the end of summer, Soon their branches will be bare and naked, left out in plain view for the world to see. Sometimes I wonder if they're ever nervous, knowing that they can't hide anything from anyone for a long while. Then I realize that they're sleeping, and sleeping beings care not for how the world sees them.
I draw in a breath a little to deep and get thrown into another one of my coughing fits, and it brings memories rushing into my old, tired mind. Of sunny days and old photographs, and the smell of her perfume. Birthday parties and children running through the house, the pitter patter of little bare feet on the hardwood, and tears start to blur my vision. All of my children are grown now, busy living their lives and raising broods of their own. And I'm wasting away in my home, the holes in my heart slowly healing, but still painful enough to stop me from trying to live anymore. After Millie died, I would close the curtains and lay in our bed, wrapped around her pillow. What else could I do? I'm an old man, the wrinkles mapping out the years of hard work and little recognition across my features. The only thing I have left anymore is the loneliness in my heart, and in the halls of this creaky old house.
Oh, how this house is like an extension of me. Our paint is faded and chipping, our foundation isn't as stable as it used to be. Our windows are foggy, our gutters are leaking, and we exist as if we've been abandoned. But we have each other. I can't get around like I used to, I can't keep her fixed up the way I once did. But she doesn't mind, as long as I stay. But for how long? The room is getting dark, and I can't tell if it's the sun setting on the day, or on my life. I think of Millie, her warm smile, and sunlight in her blonde hair. Her arms outstretched for me, beckoning me to hold her, and walk through our new home.
If I could have one last wish, it would be that after this life, I could exist in my happiness forever. When our children were young and needed us, and when Millie was alive, and we could take care of things ourselves, and we were stable. Back when it felt like nothing would ever change. I can see her again, in her favorite green dress and her apron with the stains on it, her bob brushing at her shoulders. Red lips and smooth skin and happy days. I reach out for her, and then I realize that it's just me in this dusty old room, and my hand comes into focus.
My wrinkled hand, smaller and weaker than how I remembered it. When did I become so frail? When could I no longer be on my own? I stand, slowly, but with purpose. I take up the cane that she had made for me, the one with our initials carved into the handle, worn smooth but still there if you knew where to run your thumb. I grab my key and bid the house farewell, and a short breath of wind breezes by, like a sigh. I grab my cap and put it on my head, and my light jacket and the scarf Millie knitted for me, now with holes in it, and it's color faded. I walk out of the door, locking it behind me, and start to make my way down the street.
The sidewalks start to blend together, and I don't realize exactly what I've come to do until the large wrought iron gates and stone sign come into my view. At Rosehill, there is a large monument with a bible laid open on a pedestal. The book is the size of a twin bed, maybe a bit bigger. On it's pages are the ten commandments, and Millie and I loved to go to that book and run our hands over the ornate engravings. I made my way up the hill to the book, up the short steps that led to it. The words were a little faded, but they were still as heavy in their stern sovereign as they had been all those years ago. I run my hand along the words, imagining her small hand underneath mine, moving with me, her slender fingers running across the words like an athlete. I pat the book, thanking it for the good memories, and turn away. I walk down the steps, and head to the back of the cemetery.
In a row of graves shadowed by a large oak tree, whose leaves were orange and brown and gold, is her grave. I slowly kneel where she lies, brushing away the leaves and debris, using the sleeve of my jacket to polish up the smooth marble, black with lightening bolts of white and grey running through the surface. I kiss her portrait that is encased by stone, and lay down. The sun is setting and night is soon to come, but I'm so warm. I feel so at peace. I know my fall has ended, the time for slumber is here.