It Was During WW II

I remember walking nine blocks home to check the mail and then nine blocks back. Looking for a letter from Forrest and unwilling to wait until classes were over.  Rain, snow, sunshine.  No matter the weather.  I wrote to him almost every day and lived for his replies, which didn’t come nearly that often.  Mail came twice a day back then and postage was five cents,  a penny for a postcard.

I walked down Benton, turned right on Central, past the library, the courthouse, Hamby’s restaurant where the aroma of fresh baked homemade rolls and fruit pies kept diners coming, turned right, past wooden houses with blue and yellow stars in the windows indicating family members who were serving the country or who had died in the service of the country, turned left at Main, past  St. Joseph Catholic Church on the corner of Main and Scott, past the school, more frame houses with stars and a church on the corner of Main and Scott, then my home. second house from the corner–609 West Scott.

I was seventeen and a freshman at Drury College   Forrest was my boy friend of five months who later became my husband.

The war ended while Forrest was on a boat being deployed to England.  By then, I had left Drury and entered nursing school at St. John’s Hospital.  I turned down a plebe Christmas –a week at West Point– with someone I’d met at Drury, Jack Wagner, to be there when Forrest returned from the service.  My grandmother had paid for a mouton lamb coat for the occasion and I was set to leave when I learned Forrest would be home.

After three years, we married and had four sons.

Forrest and three of our sons, Scott, John and Ken have died–Scott and Ken of suicide and John of colon cancer.  Forrest died of kidney failure.

Chris and I remain.

 

A Crack in the Heart

For some time now, Jenny has been on the decline.  She refuses her food more often and sometimes throws up.  She sleeps longer and deeper.  She is losing her sight and her hearing.  She gets diarrhea and has nocturnal accidents.  When she’s awake, she barks at everyone and everything invading her space.  Lately, she’s been limping.

Worried that her pancreatitis and kidney failure are worsening, I called Dr. Black who made a house call. She found that Jenny now weighs only 8.9 lbs (a loss of over a pound since her last visit}.  And her kidney blood levels are rising.

Remembering losses of other furry companions, and wanting time to prepare myself, I asked Dr. Black if Jenny was nearing the end of her illnesses.  I was stunned to learn that I probably have only about six more months to enjoy her company.

Funny, how the revelation I will soon lose my best friend changes my experience of her.  Now I live in the moment, holding her, stroking her, enjoying our closeness

Tonight, as the long day fades into night, I watch TV from my bed as Jenny lays her head on my lap and sleeps.  I gently stroke her back, letting her warmth soak into the mattress and my heart..

The Day After She Left

I roll my wheelchair through the rooms of the house, Jenny in step behind me.

In the living-room, the empty couch where she slept.  Around the fireplace, a string of lights she installed one Christmas.

Through the sun room window, the hummingbird feeder she planted and filled waits for a visitor.

In the kitchen, I open the refrigerator door and look for something for breakfast.  Past the potato salad, lasagna, and cucumber salad she made, I reach for the peanut butter, placing it and the last banana on a tray.  I make a cup of green tea, then take my breakfast back to the bedroom.

I settle in bed, adjusting the tray across my lap.  Jenny sits beside me.  Cleo, the cat, lies at my feet.  Watchful of my every move, both wait for a morsel they believe is their due.  The flowers she gave me arranged in a vase on the off-white French bureau add an uplifting feel to the room.

Outside, a cardinal eats seeds from the window feeder she sent last winter.  Now a squirrel arrives,  frightening the cardinal away.  Cleo runs to the window and furiously claws at the glass.   The squirrel, unruffled, continues his meal.

After breakfast, I return the tray to the kitchen, rolling through the rooms once more, traces of her in almost every quiet room.