A nippy dawn woke
eighty-six-year-old Ed, my father, on November 14,
turned to nuzzle his chin into Mom’s warm neck, but Ibby was already up and
dressed. He heard her rattling around the kitchen laying out a breakfast of
graham crackers and hot tea at the century-old dining table. Ed pulled on
yesterday’s clothes that laid on the bedside chair overnight, splashed water on
his face, and ran a dry toothbrush across his teeth.
After they ate,
Ibby brushed crumbs from Ed’s lips, and held his jacket from behind as he slowly slipped in one arm
at a time. Ed helped Ibby snuggle into the blue, fuzzy cardigan she’d knitted
thirty years ago, waiting as she fastened each white pearl button with her
Ed smooched Ibby
saying, “I love you––see you for lunch.”
the wall to steady himself, he staggered down two cement steps to the attached
garage, then pushed the control to open the overhead door. Ibby tottered along
to his red Cadillac handing him his cane, reminding, “Don’t forget to use
Ibby stood in the
driveway of the small 1950’s brick, ranch home where they’d lived for forty
years, waving while Ed backed out of the driveway without looking, and drove
two blocks to work. His Caddy rolled through one stop sign, then through a red
light before he parked crooked across two spaces. Ed entered
his business of sixty years, smiling so brightly his eyes squinted, gave an
enthusiastic, salute-like wave to his co-workers who were already busily
working, bubbling, “Hello, everybody. Great day, isn’t it?” He continued polite
niceties, but couldn’t remember names. Then he settled in behind his
walnut desk, opening The Wall Street Journal. He appeared to be busy, but
glanced up frequently hoping to see familiar customers.
Back at home Ibby
waved to her neighbors as they drove to work. Everyone knew everyone on Orchard
Lane, their dead-end street. She struggled straightening her stooped spine to
pour cracked corn and sunflower seeds into her bird feeder, and slowly hobbled
to survey her bleak fall yard. She lingered, marveling at the glistening,
frozen-dew encapsulating late-fall rosebuds. Frost soaked Ibby’s cloth shoes.
her back into the warm house. She passed through the cluttered kitchen looking
for a snack, peeking in the refrigerator packed with leftovers. Some were
edible, others spoiled––but Ibby couldn’t tell the difference.
She looked forward
to the lunch and dinner she and Ed would eat at the local restaurant as they
had nearly every day for the past six months. Before Ibby settled in on the
couch to wait for Ed, she heated a cup of tea in the microwave. The stovetop
was piled too high with pots and pans, as well as canned and boxed food, to use
the teapot. She idled time away watching cardinals, blue jays, and yellow
finches flitting on the feeder outside the picture window, whistling to mimic
their chirps. From across the street a retired neighbor stopped by, as she did
every morning, to say hello. Ibby gave her a hug and a friendly greeting, but
couldn’t remember her name.
realized, hours dissolved. She heard the church bells toll twelve at noon, and
was whistling along with “Amazing Grace,” ringing out from the church carillon,
when she saw Ed pull in the driveway.
Finding a comb and
a tube of lipstick midst the clutter on the dining room table, she drew a shaky
wine-colored line on her lips, and pulled the comb once through her fine,
snow-white hair. Bundled in her sweater again, Ibby left the house unlocked and
gimped to the car. Ed had beeped the horn twice. She knew he was hungry and
anxious to eat at Farmers Restaurant, the only restaurant in town.
When they arrived,
Ed parked the car with the rear edging out into the main intersection beneath
the single stoplight in Rivertown. Most residents recognized the red Caddy and
knew to avoid the car and its driver.
A balding farmer tipped his John Deere cap and smiled, as the warmth of coffee and
frying burgers drifted through the door he held open for the elderly couple.
Ibby with her bent
posture said, “Thank you, sir”
replied, "Now, you two enjoy your meal.”
Dad paused at the
door, waiting as Mom shuffled across the threshold, followed her, and took her
hand. Both of them smiled and nodded at familiar faces while making their way
to their favorite booth by the window.
The waitress read,
and reread the specials, then reminded Ed and Ibby of their favorite meal, a
fish dinner to split with extra tartar sauce and two pink lemonades.
glances at Ed and Ibby, winked and whispered to their lunch partners, while Mom
and Dad with shoulders touching, shared one meal, having no idea on the next
day, their lives and mine would change completely and forever.