The Widow’s Tale
Linda Carlino, seated on her small stool, sifted the garden soil in her hand approvingly. It was warm rich and moist…just waiting for the plantlings and seeds in the flats nearby..
With a wistful glance at the rocker on the porch, she could almost picture him there…no longer able to participate in the sowing but smiling as he watched her put in the little vegetable garden in the planter beds he had built for her…But that was two years ago and the beds had laid fallow since his passing…
Life, which had come to a virtual halt, was calling her these days. Long days of inaction, nonstop TV watching….morning to night without even watching …were coming to a close. Spring was early, crisp and clean…and hopeful …as was Linda.
She lovingly installed each tomato, pepper, and eggplant plantling, patting them gently around their base and then moved onto the spot she had allocated for the zucchini, cukes, and bush beans. A nice soaking for the plantlings and seeds with the garden hose, and then a leisurely warm ”Soaking” for the “Postage Stamp Farmer herself.” Visions of tasty fresh veggie stir fry rolled lazily around in her head as she relaxed immersed in the warm bubbly bath….
The phone was ringing and the machine related that is was good neighbor Barb…reminding Linda of their Senior Mission tomorrow. The installation and care of house plants in the rooms of the patients at the local nursing home. Linda grimaced at her inability to beg off this project…Sooo Depressing, and that nagging thought in the back of her mind, “This is where I will end up”. Depressing….
The next day brought sunshine and a bevy of little grey haired “Angels” each bearing a potted plant and heading for each patient’s room. Linda, with a rather large ceramic planter filled with an assortment of “House Plants” entered the room of Mr. Robert Byrnes.
Mr Byrnes, 87 years old, was sitting in his wheelchair, by the window, bolstered by some soft pillows and harnessed like a baby in a “car seat” to prevent his injury from a fall out of his chair as his condition was weak and he seemed very thin and frail… Linda set the plant down on the low boy dresser and turned brightly to Mr Byrnes,”Good Morning, I’m Linda and I have brought you a plant. ” There was no sign he had heard her and although he stared right at her, no sign he could see her either.” She ran some water into a plastic cup from the small bathroom and watered the plant. Then, feeling uncomfortable, she turned to Mr. Byrnes and bid him good afternoon…on her way out the door.. his eyes followed her departure but he said nothing…
Each Wednesday Linda made her way to Grassy Fork Rehabilitation and Recovery Center as Mr Byrnes was her particular mission . She found herself, after a while, upon watering the plant, which was thriving, taking a seat near the window herself and “Chatting Up” Mr. Byrnes. Not really having a true conversation as he did not answer but some how she found herself telling him all that was in her head, all the loss, all the sadness, and all the questions of “What Now?” Robert Byrnes politely stared and said nothing.
Spring turned to summer and then to fall and by now Wednesdays had become Mr. Byrnes “Day”. She laughingly told her friends that she had a standing “Date” with a gentleman every Wednesday for lunch… And every Wednesday at 12:15, she fed him his lunch and wondered who, if anyone did so on the other days….
On December 23rd, Linda arrived with a tabletop Christmas Tree and a small box of lights and ornaments. A fleece robe was wrapped and tied with a bow and a card for her “Wednesday Man.” Bright conversation (one-sided of course) little Christmas songs, and child hood tales of Christmas’ past were told while she decorated the little tree. She knew he was watching and she convinced herself he was cognoscenti and indeed had even “Improved” since she had been coming all these long months.
At last she turned from her completed work and asked,” There , How do you like it, Robert?” “I like it fine”, came the reply….from the doorway where a tall man stood with a brightly wrapped gift in his hand.
Extending his hand with a smile, “I’m Robert Byrnes……..Junior, and you must be Linda. I have heard some good things about you and your friendship with my father,” looking warmly at the old gentleman in the chair, who, as was his fashion, declined to reply…
An hour or so later during which Robert the younger related the latest events in his life to Robert the elder. Retirement at last, feeling better about his widowed status, some fishing at the family cabin, news of family members…Who was in hospital, who got married who had passed… and with this, Robert rose to go…..Linda had excused herself and was in the Center’s Coffee Shop visiting with one of the admissions workers. She had made friends here and thoroughly enjoyed her “Wednesday Dates”
Robert Byrnes entered the coffee shop, looked directly at Linda and smiled as he sat down with her and her companion who, quickly made some excuse of “Break time is over” and headed back to her office. “Linda, I will only be here in town for a few days over the Holiday as my house is being sold and I must be at the closing January 2, but I would like very much if you would join me for dinner….”and then teasingly, “You won’t have to feed me, I promise” She smiled her assent……
Three dinners, two lunches, and one “Home Cooked Meal” straight from the garden, later, Robert and Linda were more than “Friends” and on the “Wednesday” before New Year, the went together to Grassy Fork.
Mr. Byrnes , having had a “Step Backwards” so to say was in his bed and looking very pale, with translucent skin, and watery and unfocused eyes. Wearing the new pajamas Robert had brought for him and the robe from Linda, he looked very small and delicate lying there. Feigning good cheer (with watery eyes themselves) they told the old gentleman of their new-found love, of the happiness they felt, and their plans to visit the family cabin to get away and get to know one another. As they looked lovingly in each other’s eyes, Mr. Byrnes, the elder….smiled ever so slightly and murmured,” I will be sure to tell your mother you are doing well”, and he passed peacefully from this vale…..