“The cake is just wonderful isn’t it, Edgar?”
He stared at her with glass eyes.
“I found these organic strawberries at the Walmart. No hormones added!”
Edgar didn’t talk these days but she was always happy to fill the void.
“Remember that first picnic in the park, Edgar? How wonderful that was? Gosh, that was seventy-three years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. And you know my ninety-one year old memory is not the sharpest anymore! But golly, I knew you liked me when you fed me that strawberry by hand. Remember that? How you softly teased my lips with it? So romantic! That beautiful summer day by the Comel. Yep, that’s when I knew you liked me,” her words trailed off but her smile was as wide as a crescent moon on the horizon.
She reached over and touched his hand. The years had not been good to him. His skin was dry and flaking. His hair was falling out in clumps. His shirt was soiled. Edgar had to be moved about by her. His wheel chair made it easier because her arthritis would protest her if she had to lift him.
“Oh, Edgar. What have the years done to us? I can still see that summer boy with wavy brown hair and blue eyes, freckles on his nose and a washboard stomach. All my friends swooned over you. And how you used to jump onto the rope swing and cannon ball into the river? Such a show off! ”
She thought back to when she was young. He skin smooth and untouched by liver spots. When her chest was tight and firm. Defiant to gravity. Before the kids and grandkids – none of whom ever visited anymore. They chose to leave her and Edgar alone in their small, isolated country home. She knew when they would call though, a week before their birthdays or before major holidays like Christmas.
Driving was getting harder for Jean and Walmart was a thirty minute drive so she always bought in bulk.
Her evenings were spent with Edgar in front of the TV watching reruns of The Andy Griffith Show or I Love Lucy. Her head cradled on his shoulder. He would silently watch the TV, his hand in hers. It was a quiet life far removed from the excitement of their youth but she liked it that way because they had each other.
She was humming now as she gathered up the dishes. On the wall in the kitchen hung a picture of them – he, freshly returned from the Pacific, strapping and confident in his army uniform and she in a simple homespun dress with flowers in her hair. They were standing in front of her ma and pa’s old farmhouse in Seguin. That was their golden time. Shortly before that picture was taken back in the spring of 1949 he was down on a knee proposing. That is when she knew he loved her. And they had been together ever since.
“Sixty-nine years ago today, Edgar,” she said looking at the picture.
“We have been through so much. You were so gentle to me when we lost our Emilie Rose. My world was ending and you were my savior.”
Tears were welling in her eyes.
“You have made me the happiest woman in the world.”
She let the plate she was washing slip down into the soapy water. She walked in her slow way back to the table where Edgar was sitting. Her knees were getting so bad these days that it hurt to even lift her feet sometimes. She bent down and hugged him. But not too tightly; she had learned her lesson about that years ago. She kissed him on his cheek.
On the way back to the sink she just couldn’t stop herself from grabbing a strawberry from the top of the white cream cake she had made for their anniversary. She popped it in her mouth. She did not expect to trip on the edge of the dining room carpet as she shuffled back to the sink. The same china blue carpet she had asked Edgar to tack back down years ago before his heart attack. She fell to the floor choking. She had her arms out as if reaching for Edgar, her face turning as blue as the carpet; but there was nothing he could do for. He had been a wheel chair bound corpse for years now.