THE MIDDLE PATH

Photo: www.mooseyscountrygarden.com

BY: Rachel Paulin

One

I woke up like any other morning. However, hot having my husband next to me after sixty years is some what different. The coffee is more bitter, the sun isn’t as bright. But no matter what differences life seems to bring upon me, me baby grand piano never fails to add light to even the darkest situations. I know his spirit plays within The Turkish March, Beethoven’s No. 5, Fur Elise. These were this favorites. Although I had played them over and over, he never failed to look as happy as he was the first he heard the notes flow out of my fingers. The lines around his mouth reminded me of the smiles he made, the kisses he gave me, the loving words he said. It is unbelievable that in sixty years of marriage, we had very few arguments. It would come down to what type of ice cream to have or who loved who more. In the end, the answer was always the same and he was always the one to say it; “Just wait one moment. Listen. Do you hear it? That’s the sound of silence. Beautiful, isn’t it? Almost as beautiful as you. But you see, there’s a difference between silence and yourself. I see you.” And in that moment, he would take me into his arms as if I was the most delicate thing on this earth and kiss me like it was the first time his eyes met mine. Every time he did that, there was never any apathy. Only passion. And it never got old…

As I walked down the stairs, the third step made a small creak. I remember the first time I heard that creak. It was my wedding day. I was barely twenty one, him just two years old than I and we had just inherited his grandfather’s house no more than a month before. I was wearing my mother’s wedding dress but not because we could not afford silk or satin. The elegance of the dress was absolutely breathing taking. The beads were hand-sown, lace was woven around the shoulders in the most subtle way and the train made whoever wore it look like royalty. My love affair with the dress was a family heirloom pinned at my left hip. It was a silver crystal, oval-shaped and diamond encrusted. It felt as though my mother was with me the entire night. She was nineteen when she had me and clearly was not ready to raise a child. After being married to my father for not even a year, she left us both in the hopes of leaving her troubles behind. Although I never knew her and she abandoned me, my mother lies somewhere in my heart. I guess it’s the feeling of the relationship we would have had if she had stayed…good or bad. The only thing that I have to remember her by is that wedding dress, which I cherish to this day…

Spontaneously, I decided to bake a pumpkin pie because it allowed me to ponder the memories of Christmas’ past. My aunt taught me how to bake the pie with her recipe from her own version of the original. My children and my children’s children would come and stay with us for a few days during the holidays. We would decorate the tree, play games, bake pastries, watch movies, tell stories, and so many things that one could only imagine that brings such joy to a person. I would tell my favorite story every year of the first Christmas my husband and I with our oldest son who was just eight months at the time. He was opening his first present; a panda bear, his favorite animal. When he saw it, the admiration that washed over his face still baffles me to this day. It was the look my husband made when I said that I would marry him. Whenever I look at my son, a grown man now, I still think of that day and the way his eyes lit up. I sat dazed in the kitchen as I let myself be consumed with the thought of my family…

The oven timer went off as I cut a piece of pumpkin pie and sat down on the couch. Next to me was the blanket that my husband made for me. It was during the blizzard of 1952 while the children were in New Hampshire with my father and we were stuck inside with the warmth of each other. I was just beginning to make this blanket when my husband scooted over to my side and quietly asked if I would teach him, blushing from embarrassment. Although it took some time, he finally finished hours later. Proud and chilly, we crept under the blanket while listening to the beating of our hearts just before drifting off to sleep. As I reminisced this memory, I decided to do the same as I did that day. I finished my pie, covered myself with the blanket and let my thoughts wander…

I awoke with the feeling of weightlessness but then immediately felt the real world around me. My eyes fluttered open with sensitivity to the harsh lighting and realized I was in the hospital. It was the same hospital I was in when I was diagnosed with cancer just two years after I married. When I looked up, my mind was led to believe that it was me husband sitting by my side. I thought that I must have been dreaming when, in fact, I was merely waking up from a long night’s rest. He looked at me with that smile that made me weak at the knees but there were no wrinkle lines this time. My heart started to slow down. I began to think of the life I would have had but stopped myself. I was okay with dying because I had realized I had already lived my life even though it was not real. However, I know, deep down, that if I were to live, I would have had the exact same life.

I looked up at my husband and said, “I love you dearest darling and don’t you ever forget that.” Just before my eyes closed for the last time, I saw a single tear fall from his eye and heard him say in an already fading voice, “I love you too…

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