Benny shuffled into the kitchen, knees stiff, shoulders hunched, feeling every minute of his ninety years. Mornings were like that. His age seemed to settle on him like a heavy blanket in the night, draining his energy and leaving him more exhausted than when he’d climbed under the sheets the night before. His sleep, though deep and mostly dreamless, never seemed adequate.
His afternoon nap would refresh him, but for now, he focused on his morning routine. First and foremost came coffee, his one remaining vice. As he went about the business of replacing yesterday’s grounds, and filling the pot from the tap, he spoke softly to his beloved wife.
“Now, Marge, don’t fuss at me. You know I’m only going to drink a cup or two, and Doctor says I’m in perfect health.”
Almost without thought, he went through the motions of dropping bread into the toaster, retrieving the butter and jam from the refrigerator, a knife from the drawer, a plate from the cabinet. Although he moved slowly, he was ready and waiting when the toast popped up.
After breakfast, he pulled on his jacket and journeyed down the long driveway to pick up the day’s newspaper. He enjoyed the crisp, fresh air, the sound of the birds, and from somewhere down the street the call of a mother to her child, “Daaaaavvvid! Hurry up! You’ll miss the bus if you don’t get it in gear.” There was more, but apparently David was getting it in gear because Benny couldn’t quite make out what followed. He imagined his great grandchildren hearing a similar call, and smiled.
Benny cradled the bundled paper in the crook of his arm and returned to his front steps. He shifted the newspaper so he could grasp the rail, climbing the steps as one might ascend Everest, careful of missteps that might cause him to fall. His glance fell on the paper and he froze, lost in thought. Valentine’s day; he hadn’t realized. Not much he could do about it now. Time had a way of expanding and contracting, flying by or crawling, unpredictable in its pace. He continued up the stairs, distracted.
He’d barely made it back in the house when he heard a car pull into his driveway. Probably CiCi, a nice woman, his daughter’s age, who spent most days at his house. She was the subject of much debate at family gatherings. She was his friend, sure. How could she not be after spending so many hours with him? But she was paid for her time and there was concern that his savings would be depleted before he lived his last day. His children weren’t the type to vie for an inheritance, but neither were they prepared to pay for his care in addition to their own bills. He feared the loss of independence as much as he’d dreaded a life of solitude. He wasn’t ready to move out of his home into an assisted-living facility, or worse, a plain old nursing home.
“Oh, Marge. How did it come to this? I don’t want to leave here. I don’t want to leave you. You were supposed to outlive me by a day, my dear. You never failed me in life, but in death….”
As CiCi opened the door, giving it a quick rap-rap with her knuckles as she let herself in, Benny turned away, not wanting her to see his sorrow. By the time she’d set down the bag of groceries she’d brought, and shrugged out of her jacket, Benny was sitting in his favorite chair looking out over the front yard, humming quietly and remembering his beloved.
“If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you. Happy Valentine’s Day, Marge. I wish you were here.”
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Tara Roberts challenged me with ““If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.” ~ Winnie the Pooh” and I challenged trencher with “Almost to the goal, encounter a major roadblock….”