Monday, April 19, 2010

For This Moment.

She puckered and kissed the mirror with her red painted lips. The pucker turned into a smile, and as she backed away, her eyes saw past her wrinkles and gray hair. She looked at those red painted lips and blue shadowed eyes and saw that girl she was 60 years ago. She saw the same sparkle in her brown eyes that she saw when she kissed the mirror as a child... practicing. She lifted her arthritic hand to her mouth and blew a kiss to the reflection in the mirror.

He smiled.

He blew a kiss back. It was his birthday, and also the anniversary of the beginning of his bed-ridden life. This was the first time his wife put on makeup in a year. And he had never remembered seeing lipstick so red, eyeshadow so blue, and brown so beautiful as he watched his wife get ready.

"How do I look?" she asked through the mirror.

"Now you better get out of here, young lady. I'm married and she might be back any minute."

The red painted lips opened in a smile. "Oh, Henry." She only wanted to look at him through the mirror. Ever since his stroke, she had a hard time looking at him directly. He wasn't the man he used to be. He wasn't supposed to be like this, was he? She had never thought what it would be like this late in life. When she was young, she imagined them being young forever. Maybe a couple wrinkles and gray hairs, but never this. There was sadness that she fought so hard to keep from her surface. This was his birthday. A day for celebration. Happiness. She looked at his reflection again. He looked the part. As long as she looked at him through the mirror, she could imagine him getting out of bed the next minute. She could imagine him going into the kitchen and making his world famous burnt omelet and climbing the step ladder to take the battery out of the smoke detector. This house had been much too quiet this year. But she knew, that she could only start at his reflection so long. Eventually, she would have to turn to face the reality that he would never get up again. He would never burn eggs or climb anything. She slept in his deathbed every night, wondering if it would claim that name before the dawn.

She hated to think that way. Especially today of all days. It was his birthday. She dabbed her tears with a tissue.

"Evie, come sit by me." His call was casual, but assertive. She didn't want to be like this around him, but couldn't bear to be away from him for a single one of his remaining minutes. She went to his side. He took her hands in his and she remembered when he first reached for her. It was dark. She was crying. He was a GI on leave, still in uniform, duffel bag over one shoulder, a glimmer of hope in this eye and stubbornness in his jaw. She had waited two years to see him, and as soon as she did, she cried, her mind racing past the next few days to when she would lose him to the army again until the tour was over. Back then, he told her to focus on the now. This time...

"When I was young, strong, and healthy, I went into battle without fear. I didn't mind dying. I wanted to die young. I wanted to die strong. I wanted to die healthy. It was a hero's death. But that was almost 65 years ago. Now I'm old, weak, and sick." She started to protest, but he quieted her with a slight squeeze of her hand. "Let me finish." He took a labored breath. "I didn't fear dying because I knew that my body was the best it would ever be. There was no where to go but down." He squeezed her hand again. "But the one thing I didn't count on was you. In losing my youth, I have gained a deeper friend that only those years could accomplish. In losing my strength, I have gained the love of one woman for 60 years. And in losing my health, I have gained this moment."

He took another deep and labored breath. "Over the past 60 years, you have made me realize that what I feared was really my treasure. Were I a rich man, I could not be happier than I am with you by my side. It is for this moment that I have lived all my life. This is the reason I survived two wars, three car crashes, and the lawnmower accident of '86. This is the moment that I tell you I love you, and it means more to you now than ever before."

She wasn't trying to stop her crying anymore. The tears flowed into the wrinkles in her cheeks. her lower lip quivered, but she didn't make a sound.

"This isn't goodbye, Evie." His eyes were getting heavy. He couldn't keep them open anymore. "I'm just going ahead." He took a shallow breath. His voice lowered to a whisper. "Tell them we were right. I see Him. He's beautiful." Another shallow breath, fainter than the last. "This isn't goodbye. I'm just going ahead."

...

She sat with him for what seemed an hour before she picked up the phone. When the operator answered, she simply said, "My husband went home."

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