[This was another prompt from Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday I did this week. I’m not adding the picture that went along with the original post. Original date 5/14/2013.]
This used to be me. In early 2007, I lost everything dear to me. My lovely wife Miranda died from cancer and after she passed away, my life fell apart. I lived in this little shack for several years until my sons finally conned me into moving into a nursing home. I was in my seventies when Miranda died, and I was too proud to move in with my kids because I didn’t want to be a burden to them. I do enjoy seeing them and my grandchildren, but they have their own lives to life. They didn’t need an old, grumpy man around them everyday. I lived there with my trusty sidekick, Milo and we lived like poor kings. The shack didn’t have running water, heat for the winter, or air for the summer. I never had a door that locked, so I would wear a long trench coat and stuffed a small box I got while I was in the Korean war. I stuff all my letters, from the past and present, and old pictures of my family in my lower side pocket. It clanks everytime I would walk but everybody knew I was coming. Kids used to think I was the tin man from Wizard of Oz because my right knee would aways hit the box and it would rattle. That’s not where my tin is, but they were close. Everytime I look at this picture I think about how far I’ve come.
I haven’t been at the home very long, but I have made some fast friends already. It helps that they have wives, kids, grandchildren, and served in the same war. Thomas is in his early seventies and he is an ass, but has a reason to be. His insurance ran out on him after his wife Margaret died a couple of years ago. His daughter couldn’t afford to stay with him and have a life of her own. So he made the decision to come here. His daughter comes here once a week and sits in his room, talks about her life to him. My other friend Lewis, is much older than both Thomas and I. He is 82 years old and he is a character. He mostly sits in his wheelchair and yells at the nurses claiming they stole his walker. The funny part is, he only does this to cause havoc to them. I am 76 years old and I have my own room. It’s decorated with old pictures and my grandkids drawings they bring me everytime they visit me. My oldest son, Michael has two boys and my youngest son Edward, everybody calls him Eddie, has a boy and a girl. My daughter-in-laws love bringing the kids to see me at the home. My daughter-in-law Lisa, brought the youngest with her since the other three are at school. Zavery is the only girl in the bunch and she is the cutest thing in the entire world. She looks like her daddy, Eddie. When Lisa showed up, Thomas, Lewis, and I were sitting in the living area, sitting in the recliners, and talking about different things. Lisa put Zavery on my lap, and she just looked around and giggled at Thomas when he talked in his baby voice.
Lewis and Thomas love seeing my grandkids come see me. Because kids say the darndest things. You can never tell what they’re going to say or do for that matter. Zavery is only three years old and she can’t say very much yet. I knew Lisa was coming to see me, so I grabbed my box of pictures and letters to get an early start to share memories with this little girl. I know how much Thomas and Lewis love telling stories about the war to their kids and other residents’ kids. Especially we have very noticeable scars on our bodies. When Zavery was sitting on my lap, I opened up the beaten up box and pulled out these large stack of pictures and letters.
“These here, Zavery, means more to me then you’ll ever understand at this time. Maybe when you’re older and dating…”
“That’s if her father lets her.” Thomas said, with a very good point. If she is my only granddaughter, she won’t have a good social life when it comes to guys.
I pull out two of the letters, one by me and the other by my late wife Miranda. I showed her the old envelope and paper, it has some tears here and there, but other than that it was in perfect condition.
“Do you remember the day you left home Arnold?” Lewis said kind of softly. Which made both Thomas and I turn our heads to him.
“Oh, yeah I remember that day very well.” I said as I looked to Thomas.
“I was excited for some stupid reason.” Thomas said, with a half-smile.
“What was that day like for you pops?” Lisa said after hearing our topic for the day.
As the memories began to flood back to my mind. I started hearing the voice of my wonderful wife back in my ear of that morning before I left for my long journey. We laid in our bed as newlyweds and it was nearly 6am and the sun was just starting to raise. At that time we had a couple of dogs and they were wanting to go outside for their normal morning walks around our community. I sat up from bed and changed my clothes and grabbed my running shoes to get some exercise. Miranda told me before I went outside that she was going to make breakfast for the two of us. I gave her a quick peck of the cheek and left with our two dogs Goldie and Roger. We went around the block twice and it was quite a workout for me, since when I was single, I never went out walking or running so early in the morning. I just wanted to have some time alone with them to make me realize that my lady will be the one doing this for some months. I remember thinking and hoping, I’d only be gone for a few months. When we got back to the house, you could smell the blueberry muffins and waffles. The smell of fresh coffee could have made our neighbors run over for breakfast too. We sat in our small dining room, and we just sat in silence. I knew she wasn’t happy that I was leaving that afternoon, but I had to. We made that vow to write every chance we had.
That whole day wasn’t the best. I got dressed and while I was getting dressed, Miranda came into the bedroom, in a black and yellow summer dress full of ruffles. She decided to wear a medium size hat that at first looked ridiculous! As I was buttoning up my jacket, she came in with her full outfit. Even had to ask me if she looked all right. For all men who have girlfriends or wives, if they have to ask you that question, go with this answer. “Yes, you look very lovely.” For the newer generations, I wouldn’t use the word “lovely” apparently some women will think you are calling them “old.” Anyways, I grabbed my bags and got my last hugs from the dogs and then we headed out. I drove us to the airport and we enjoyed our last hours together until I was to leave her. Getting that last kiss and heading inside that plane was difficult for me. The thought of the unknown of the fact I may not make it back to her haunted us both. We were young and in love, and separation was the last thing neither one of us wanted. I wrote to her on that very plane. It was only a seven hour flight and I had a lot of thoughts and wishes to tell her about in that one page letter. After landing, I went to the nearest post office on base so it could be shipped off as soon as possible.
I stayed and fought in the war for a little over a year and throughout that time my wife and I had sent seven letters to each other. Finding a good post office around was difficult. That’s why I only had some many letters from her. I wrote to her every day. I tucked them in the tin box, when I first got it, this little boy said it used to be his lunch box and said that it could be used for extra protection. He also thanked me for the service to his country and ran off. On the start of the second year being overseas and away from my darling, I might’ve had only seven letters from her, but I had about 16 to her that I couldn’t send to her. So the day we were told we were going home, I stuffed the tin box inside my helmet and we boarded the flight, I got out my pen and a half piece of paper and I wrote a small note to be added into the stack of letters. When we got out of the plane, I were greeted by our families and friends. Miranda quickly found me and brought Goldie and Roger with her. I didn’t who was more excited to see me, her or the dogs. When we were on our way home, she started talking about the house and the puppies that Goldie has last year. She had all this bright excitement on her face to finally have me back in one piece. I enjoyed hearing her talk, but I was getting distracted looking around our community and signs around town. It sure made me glad to be home.
Shortly after we got home, she started to pull things out of the bag to wash them. She thought it was better if she grabbed the end of the bag and everything just falls out from the top. When I heard the box thump on the floor, I walked in on her mess in our bedroom as she was tossing things into the laundry basket. She picked up the dented box and opened it up to find my old cigarettes, letters from her and all my letters that I couldn’t sent her. She sat on the floor with a small pile of clothes and read all of the letters and silently cried to herself. I let her be and took the dogs on a late afternoon walk. When I got back, she was still there in the same position I left her in, but her tears had all but dried up. She ran to me and wrapped herself around me. A couple of years after that, we welcomed our first child Michael and a year later, we welcomed our song Eddie. Spending all those years with pure heaven. I spent two years in hell, she changed everything that I was used to do for those two years. She meant more to me than she had before. That’s why when we raised the boys, I always told them when they started dating, to treat women with as much respect as possible because that’s what they deserve being around us every day. I’ve already gotten an early start with my three grandsons. I wish my beautiful love of my life was still hear to give her advice to Lisa and Natalie and little Zavery for the future. I’m pretty sure she’s guiding them through the same things she did while around me. Because that’s what love is real about and never take the other person for granted. Ever.