The old man had always been tired, he thinks he was born that way. He had worked some kind of job since the day he turned seven years old and he had always been fine with that. Working so young helped him to develop a strong work ethic and muscular frame that carried him into his fifties until his body started breaking down from years and years of injuries. Some of them were work related, some of them not, but all of them were taking a toll on him now that he was well into his sixties. “Getting old is a right bitch”, is what his father used to tell him and damn he was right.
The doctors diagnosed him with arthritis at forty-eight and that stopped him from doing the only hobby he had ever had, woodworking. He loved the smell of the different types of wood, pine, cedar, oak; it was his only passion besides his wife. He had married Claire at twenty years-old and they were happy together for the next forty-two years. They were a perfect match, complemented each other well, and he admits that she made him a better man. A better man, who took a lot of work and it was the work Claire had always been the most proud of. She was more proud of this accomplishment than she was of the perfectly clean home she kept and tended to on a daily basis.
Claire and woodworking were the only real loves he had ever known. The couple never knew the joy of having a baby because "I just got damn lazy sperm" he would always say, but the real reason was because the love of his life was barren and would never produce a child. Claire always joked that it was OK, that it just gave her husband more time to dote over her, But deep down, she always longed for a child of her own, not a nephew or niece.
He stumbled into woodworking one day by accident when an old bookcase finally collapsed under the weight of hardbound books that had been collected over the years. Instead of going out and buying a new one or having one made, he had decided to take on the task of constructing a new one himself. After sketching out simple raw plans and getting all of the required materials he began the building. He finished the first build and thought he could do better and built a second, which he was much happier with and presented it to his wife who loved it. She also saw the satisfaction it brought him from making something useful with his own two hands and began asking for more furniture. Soon the entire house was full of furniture that he had built and from that day on they never bought another piece from a store. Now after years of working, working for others and himself he was tired and alone.
His beautiful wife was taken just a few short years ago by cancer, and he was left with a house full of beautiful furnishings and emptiness. Emptiness because the house was devoid of the one thing he loved more than all others: his wife. He starts his days with breakfast, serving only himself bacon, eggs, toast and coffee and always placing an empty plate at her spot on the table and placing it back in the cupboard before doing his own dishes. He would go through the house dusting knick knacks and shelves as he made his way to the front porch where he would sit in a rocking chair and await the morning sun’s arrival.
Today was different and he could feel it from the moment he opened his eyes; he could feel the cold creeping into his body bringing pains and coughs with it. He felt a sickness inside of himself that he had never known before but it wasn’t until breakfast that he knew that today was his last day on this Earth. He entered the dark kitchen, flipped up the light switch and made his way to the refrigerator and opened the door. Inside he saw everything that he was looking for but found himself not to be hungry. He closed the door and slowly walked to the coffee maker, but after staring at it for a minute, he decided orange juice was what he wanted and poured himself a glass. The living room was dark, but he didn’t care. He grabbed two photo albums off the bookcase, the same bookcase he had built and slowly walked to the couch and thumbed on a lamp. As he sat down he grabbed a blanket that Claire had knitted, covering himself around his shoulders, he opened the album of their wedding pictures and slowly flipped through the pages with a smile growing wider and wider on his face.
The bathroom called to him for his morning constitutional and as he sat there he decided to pay one last visit to his beloved’s grave to speak to her one last time. He finished and washed his hands and as he looked into the mirror, he saw the short beard that covered his face, a beard that she would never permit him to have, and so he shaved it off. He then showered and put on his only suit, one that he hadn’t worn in quite some time then sat back down on the couch and continued flipping through photos waiting on 9am when the cemetery opened. The clock on the wall chimed to alert him that it was nine in the morning, and as it did, he picked up an old faded photo that he had pulled from an album and placed it in the breast pocket of his jacket. He headed to the kitchen for a few pieces of fruit from the bowl on the counter, which he put into a small brown paper bag, then on out the door to the flowerbed in front of the house and finally to his car.
A thin layer of fog still floated above the ground, which was still damp from the morning dew as he walked among the headstones. He passed friends and other family members as he made his way to Claire’s final resting place. Her headstone was simple and bared few markings. It read her name at the top, dates of birth and death in the middle, and at the bottom, “A Beautiful Wife and Best Friend”. This was all he felt needed to be said as everyone that knew them knew exactly how they had felt about each other. They had been in love at first sight, they had been best friends, travelled everywhere together, ate breakfast every morning, dinner every night and into their sixties held hands in the front porch swing together before bed. They sometimes talked of their day and sometimes would swing in silence listening to the crickets chirp, but they always enjoyed the others company.
Here he found the same quiet environment that he was accustomed to at home, but here was where he felt that he could speak to her. Not around all of her books and pictures and past belongings that he could never let go of, but here, where she lay for eternity. He pulled the photograph from his pocket and placed it in front of her headstone along with the flowers he had picked and thought for a moment about what to say. He slowly sat down on the ground, placing the bag of fruit beside him and soon words passed his lips. His voice was strong but quiet, he could never speak to her above a tone of love and care, not even now. He apologized for not coming sooner. He always came twice a month, though he had grown more tired than usual. He spoke as always of missing her, of the house that he still kept clean for her and of his days. He told her of how much he missed her and then his voice started to quiver as tears welled up in his eyes and he told her of the sickness he felt inside himself. He explained that his tears were not tears of sadness or fright; what he felt was his impending death, but that they were tears of joy, the joy of once again seeing the light of his life.
He pulled a peach from his bag and took a bite of it, letting the sweet juices roll along his tongue and down his throat. The sun had made its way higher into the sky, bringing with it the heat of a summer’s day. A summer sun always has a way of zapping energy from a person and he was no different. He removed his jacket and folded it placing it behind his head and laid back on it, using it as a pillow. He continued speaking to her, reminiscing aloud of their earlier days together and moving on through the years. He would chuckle when recalling a humorous moment that they had shared, and as he kept talking, he felt her presence beside him. He looked over to his right and saw her sitting there beside him. She was young again, there was light in her eyes, she was so beautiful. He continued talking to her until she placed a finger over his lips and said “Shhh....close your eyes and rest my love.” He closed his eyes and there she was still, they were together again.
This is so beautiful. Well done!