“Good morning, Beatrice. I’m a little late, I know. I had to stop at the hardware store on my way here. I’ll bet you thought I wasn’t coming today. You know me better than that. In fifty-eight years of marriage, I’ve never forgotten your birthday. Look what I have for you. I brought lilacs from the tree in our back yard. Remember the lilac tree in our back yard? Oh, how you loved it when that tree blossomed every year. Our dining room table looked so elegant with Mother’s cut glass vase perched in the center of it, filled with flowers in shades of purple. The sweet scent traveled all through the house. I’d come home from the office and know you’d been working in the garden. I’ll set them here on the windowsill where you can see them.”
“Have you looked out the window this morning? The air is crisp and clean. The birds are singing. How about venturing outside with me? You’d like that, wouldn’t you? I already told the nurse I’d be taking you out for a stroll. Let me just wrap this shawl around your shoulders so you don’t catch a chill. Looks like it’s getting a bit worn. I’ll bring the pretty blue one you got for Christmas. It matches your eyes. Now, you relax in your chair and leave the driving to me. We can sit in the courtyard and hold hands like when we were kids. Remember those days? Sometimes, it doesn’t seem all that long ago. Don’t look at me like that. I know it’s not as clear in your mind as it is in mine, but I like to think you recollect some of our life together every now and then. I won’t let them tell me anything different. I don’t believe you’ve forgotten me. I don’t believe it for a minute.”
“There now, isn’t it better out here? I knew you’d enjoy the courtyard. Aren’t the flowers lovely? Look at those geraniums. I think they’re the prettiest I’ve ever seen. Red ones are still my favorite. Do the pansies remind you of home? Speaking of home, I’ve tried to keep the garden up, but it’s been difficult with this arthritis. May Pritchard’s youngest boy, Tom, does odd jobs and yard work around town. He’s good with flowers, too. I hired him to mow the lawn and do the watering. He even finished the planting for me. Thanks to Tom, the garden looks better than ever. He’s building a ramp so when you come home for a visit we can wheel you right out there. Won’t that be nice? Did I mention the boy is going to college in the fall to become a doctor? He’s grown into a fine young man, just like you always said he would. When I told him it was your birthday, he cut some lilacs especially for you. Wasn’t that thoughtful of him?”
“Do I see the hint of a smile on that pretty face? I love seeing you smile. Are you thinking about other birthdays? Do you remember when you turned eighteen? That was the day I asked you to marry me. Seems like yesterday, doesn’t it? How about your thirtieth? That sure was a good one. We drove to New York City for a long weekend. Your mother watched the kids. I don’t recall the name of the play we saw, but I’ll never forget those wonderful few days in the Big Apple. We stayed in a fancy hotel with a view of Central Park, drank champagne in our room and ate dinner in a quiet little French restaurant. We tried going back there a few years later. Mona came down with the chicken pox and we had to cancel the trip. You wouldn’t leave your little girl. You were always a good mother. Maybe you’re thinking about your fiftieth? We threw you a surprise party at that Italian restaurant you liked so much. I can still see the look on your face when you walked into the room and sixty people yelled “happy birthday.” We’ve had some good times together, Beatrice.”
“The whole family will be here tonight. Robert took the night off. Mona baked the cake herself. She’s bringing Louise with her. I know Louise hasn’t been here in a while. She broke a hip a couple months ago. Had to stop driving. She’s doing much better now and is looking forward to seeing her best girlfriend. Having to depend on others is tough, but you know that.”
“For now, let’s sit and enjoy this precious time together by the flowers in this lovely courtyard? It’s okay if you don’t remember. I forget a lot of things these days too. The kids and grandchildren will be here later to wish you a happy birthday. Until then, it’s just the two of us. For a little while, it will be like the old days.”
© 2016, Lina Rehal. All rights reserved.
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