General Fiction posted January 6, 2015


Exceptional
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A Valentine story for older folks

The Music of Love

by Spiritual Echo


Somehow I was able to get through Christmas without getting maudlin and melancholy. I focused on my children and grandchildren, enjoying their delight during the holidays. The month of December was filled with school concerts, church socials and wonderful get-togethers with people I loved.

It was only after the New Year chimed in when I suffered my loneliness. Without the festive lights and decorations, the world looked bleak. I rarely went out, fearing the ice and slippery sidewalks. I knew I was too young to become so reclusive, hiding in my small apartment, avoiding the world outside my window. But at sixty-eight, I was old enough to understand the danger and the slow recovery a broken hip would impose.

Since Will died eight years ago, I had slowly surrendered my dreams of a happily-ever-after life. After my mandatory retirement on my sixty-fifth birthday, everything changed. I hadn't felt old when I was working. I would get up each day, put on make-up, do my hair and enjoy dressing up to go to the office. Even knowing that my work-mates were friends of convenience, I still missed the lunches and office gossip. They'd stopped calling, and when I called suggesting meeting for lunch, there was always an excuse.  I stopped calling.

It was tough being a retired widow. I  often felt invisible when I went about doing my errands. I marvelled at how a clerk in a store could look right past me, focusing on the youthful customer standing in line behind me. Early in my retirement, I became upset with a cashier in the supermarket.   She waved a customer ahead of me, scanning his groceries before my own.

"My money is just as good as his," I protested. "I was first."

The cashier gave me a blank stare. "Yes, but he's in a hurry."

The assumption that I had all the time in the world to stand in line, nowhere I needed to go, was painful, but accurate.

Even sequestered in my apartment, I wasn't protected from the happiness of the outside world. With not much else to do but read, knit and watch television, I was deluged with romantic commercials advertising Valentine's Day.

Will was always the romantic one, never allowing a special date on a calendar to pass without celebrating. Married for more than thirty years, I was the one who admonished his gleeful plans and surprises.

"Oh Will, it's beautiful," I said, opening the velvet jewellery box. "But darling, we're not kids anymore. Valentine's Day is for children and young lovers."

"We'll always be lovers," he'd said, as he led me to the bedroom. That part was so very true. From the time we met, our need for each other's touch never went away. We'd made love just days before Will's heart attack.

There was always sweetness to our lovemaking, a gentle appreciation of the warmth and comfort we found in each other's arms. Yet, the passion burned deep, and at times we forgot we were middle-aged, wrinkled or familiar.

All of those moments became history. I know I hug the grandchildren far too long, hungry for human touch. I become hopelessly weepy when it comes to dates on the calendar; Will's birthday, our anniversary and especially Valentine's Day. Those are the only three days I go to the cemetery. I know he's dead and nothing is left of my husband in that grave but earthly waste, his remains. But it helps me endure the days when I can't be alone without wishing I too would die.

I don't bother with fancy bouquets, overpriced roses. The cellophane wrapped flowers are from the corner convenience store. Other years, I've made this journey in snow storms. Even knowing the folly of venturing out in bad weather, my visits to sit with Will are too important to miss.  This time, I'm blessed with a beautiful day; sun glistening on pristine snow banks, in direct contrast to the mud-caked snow and slush outside the cemetery gates. I lay down the flowers and dust off the headstone and the bench beside the grave. I allow myself to remember.

I drift through special moments, our wedding, watching the children catching fish on our annual camping vacation. I relive the graduations and weddings and how we danced, using any excuse, letting the music draw us together..

"Shouldn't you be dancing with the bride?" our son asked, tapping Will's shoulder, cutting in, as we danced to 'Moon River,' at our youngest child's reception.

"I am dancing with my bride," he'd said, before leaving me to perform his patriarchal duties.

I was always his bride--for thirty-two years I walked in love, shrouded in the knowledge that nothing could ever come between us. My thoughts drifted to the lean years--Will losing his job, my bout with cancer--we were so strong together. People would comment. "You two are like a couple of sick--really sick lovebirds."

"Do you know why we're always holding hands?" Will replied; "because if we ever let go, we'd kill each other."

Nothing could be further from the truth, but it made people laugh and helped curb the envy they felt about our marriage.

I rose from the bench, preparing to leave the cemetery.  I'd wept enough, indulged myself, and it was time to say another goodbye. As I turned to walk back down the laneway that led out of the cemetery, I noticed a man standing at a grave, a violin tucked under his chin. He began to play beautiful music that I could not name, but I knew was from a symphony. I was entranced, frozen in time, as I watched the man pour out his passion and play as if he was standing on centre stage at Carnegie Hall.

I had an urge to applaud, but I knew I'd witnessed a private moment and continued to walk slowly towards the bus stop, thinking how much love was buried beneath the snow.

"Happy Valentine's Day." I heard his voice behind me. I stopped and turned to see the man approach. His blue eyes were glazed with tears, but he looked directly at me, and without hesitation, continued the conversation. "Only those who have loved deeply come to cemeteries on Valentine's Day. If you wish, I will play for the one you have lost.

"We danced to 'Moon River,' at a special wedding," I said.

In the middle of the cemetery, the man tucked his violin into his shoulder and played the song with such tenderness that I knew he too understood love.

"May I walk with you, so that together we may leave our memories behind on this beautiful day?"

I nodded. He returned to the grave where he'd performed his concert. Picking up his violin case, he put his instrument away and kissed the headstone before returning to my side.

We walked in silence to the gates and then, without talking, we both turned right and walked towards the coffee shop.





 


Valentines Writing Contest contest entry

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Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by avmurray at FanArtReview.com

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