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The Park Bench

Edgar Morrison was tired. Worn slap out from his gray head to his fully arthritic toes. The reason for his exhaustion was not his advancing years but his over sugared granddaughter. Who was now exhausting his wallet with large amounts of ice cream. Edgar sagged into a park bench while the child laughed and slurped her cone. He had about nodded off when he more felt the presence of someone else on his park bench.

"Sorry if I woke you." It was a nice pleasant voice. Edgar opened his eyes and found a woman about his own age sitting at the other end of the wooden seat.

"It's okay. I was just resting. The granddaughter ........" He pointed feebly towards the child in the grass.

"Oh, Lord, I know me too. We come here too. But there .... You don't need to hear my life."

"Edgar, Edgar Morrison." he held his hand out to the lady. She was wrinkled but it was evident that she had been and still retained a large measure of beauty. She was fair in complexion with only a hint of light makeup. She seemed of small to medium height and well "preserved". Edgar had never lost his desire or his eye.

"Martha Moore. Martha to my friends."

"Hello Martha."

"They're fun to watch, aren't they? The kids ..." He was regaining his wits and his strength. Old people seemed like they never finished a sentence, as if to save words and time.

"They are to energetic for me. I wish I had their stamina and they my wisdom. Youth is wasted on the young."

"You don't look so weak to me Martha. You look pretty good for an ol' lady." They both laughed lightly. I'll bet your husband thinks so too." That seemed to bring a dark cloud to the bench. "Uh-oh ... did I say something wrong."

"There was a Mr. Moore but it's been three years."

"I'm sorry, me too, four years ago, breast cancer."

"Heart attack. George was a good man, but he smoked and he was over weight. I loved that man but he just would not stop dying long enough to live. He worked to the day he died; everyday except that last day. But he never really lived."

"My Elizabeth had no faults that I knew of, well none that were worth remembering."

"I wasn't finding fault mind you?" said quickly.

Edgar waved his hand in easy dismissal. "I know what you meant."

"Elizabeth nagged me a little but I needed it. I always thought I'd go before her and then one day she came home from the doctor, a regular check up, and there it was. A lump, an operation, the treatment and then after such a long time of pain, she ... died." It still put a lump in his throat. And Martha's too.

They both sat in silence, watching the kids play in the park and just soaking up the afternoon sun. Martha sat remembering her Mr. Moore. He had loved her. She him. But as business forced him further away and their children came and went she looked more inward and less towards him for support and comfort. She had reoccurring stirrings during those lonely years. Their lovemaking had been sporadic and hurried. He was worn out and she was left unhappy. Now she rarely thought about it, until today. She looked at Edgar and wondered if he ..... No probably he couldn't.

"Here comes my daughter," Edgar was watching his daughter running through the park and effortlessly arriving in her jog togs.

"Daddy! How did Sara treat you and your wallet?" She was surprised to see her father sitting beside the beautiful lady and she did a quick survey and decided she was, "Okay for Daddy". "Hi, I'm Lizzie, 'tongue-tied's daughter.'" pointing a finger at her father and extending a hand towards Martha. Each got a warm and slightly wet grip and a feeling past between them that maybe they could like each other and have daddy in common.

"Hi, I'm Martha, your father and I were warming a bench and watching your beautiful child eat ice cream."

"Daddy! She won't eat any supper. How much junk did you give her?"

"Grandpa's have rights." He grinned and mumbled looking away, a bright moment passed him as it went by their bench.

"Yes and you exercise those rights too often." She was both happy that her father was a good grandfather but her Sara was spoiled by him. "Speaking of food what are you doing for dinner Dad?"

"Oh I don't know and I really don't much care." He said that with a distant look maybe remembering his wife's good dinners. Food rarely interested him now. Eating by himself and watching TV, it really wasn't fun. Oh he volunteered at Red Cross and helped out at the hospital. It made him feel good but in the end he lost his desire to be around nice people. Well that's what he admitted to himself. In secret he just could not stand to be around all those really good looking nurses and have them look past him like he was old and shriveled. He was though, he thought. He really enjoyed the ones that dressed in starched whites. And now they were fewer and fewer.

Forty years with Elizabeth had been good ones. You could arrive at the end of the road and not have regrets. But the road hadn't ended for him. It had continued. But, he still had no regrets; now he just had loneliness. Granted he had a daughter and a grand daughter but they both had lives. That they included him was a plus; but it wasn't companionship. So what should he do? The answer always seemed to elude him.

Then Martha had sat down. " Don't care!? I should scold you for that." Exclaimed Martha. "Your wife didn't pass on just to see you waste the rest of your time. Would you want her to, 'don't care'?" Martha felt she had overstepped. They had only just met. Lizzie smiled and gave her a reassuring look. "I'm sorry, it was not my place to speak."

Edgar sat deep on the bench. His shoulders slumped forward. He felt much older and not a bit wiser. " I guess I have felt the way I was supposed to feel. People expect us to wither away and follow. Not to hang on, extending our lives now that our loved ones have …..."

Martha looked at Lizzie and with her head and an almost imperceptible nod, lightly dismissed the daughter and moved an inch closer to her new friend. "Edgar, I know. I have felt exactly that way. Nothing much left and how am I supposed to act, feel, live. So I have retreated too. But I don't like that. George would not be happy. He knew in the end he had spent too much of his life in pursuit of riches so we could pursue happiness in our "Golden" years. But what's those years if you're not there to enjoy them."

Edgar stirred a little, afraid to think about what happiness might feel like again. He sat thinking as the evening sun slowly chased the blue horizon. "I've wanted to live some more. I'm not finished yet."

"That's better, really much better. Do you believe it or are you just saying so to shut me up." She smiled but looking forward so she wouldn't be disappointed by his reply.

"I don't know exactly but I can tell you that unhappiness is no fun. So why not enjoy even a few days or a few weeks or a few years. Your George and my Elizabeth may be looking down, together, remarking that we are both idiots since they would be glad to enjoy life, more time than they had, doing things the same or different as the case may be. I'm rattling on."

"No you're not Edgar. They would gladly give-up a day in heaven to spend an hour here with us. Maybe that's not religiously right. But I'd like to think they'd want to be here too."

"My sakes, it's gotten dark. Where is Lizzie?" looking around for his daughter.

"She, she went on. I guess she thought two old people would be safe together."

He hesitated. Looked at Martha. She smiled radiantly. Wrinkles disappeared to replaced with smiles around the eyes.

"Well, then maybe we shouldn't disappoint her. Miss Martha?"

"Yes Edgar."

"How about a little supper?"

"Are you cooking or buying?" she giggled.

"Your place or mine." He winked.

Kent Herrick




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