By Satiate (Nicole Boyd)
|The morning sun peeks through the
cream-colored wood slat blinds, casting a soft golden hue across the flowered bed. It is
6:30 a.m., and Austin's eyes pop open. The only sound that is heard in this room is the
soft rise and fall of his wife's gentle breathing. A ticking clock is no where to be
found; there hasn't been a clock in his bedroom for nearly 50 years. He ponders the
thought of lingering in bed with his wife, as he did when they were younger. But, he
dismisses the thought with a flick of bed sheets. If he dallies much longer, he knows he
won't feel like making breakfast. So Austin, at the ripe age of 100, heads to the kitchen.
As the cotton skiff of his blue J.C. Penny slacks quietly echo through the hallway, he thinks of waking up his wife. No, he decides, Violet will wake up when she smells the coffee brewing. In the kitchen, he walks past the light switch, no need to turn it on. If it were earlier in the year, turning on the overhead lamp would be part of the routine; but this is spring. Even though the sun is still trying to labor its way above the distant mountains, there is enough light for Austin to make his way to the coffee maker. His cataracts are getting worse this year. Pouring water into the coffee urn, Austin lifts his head and says a silent prayer to God for blessing him with his wife. Violet just turned 97 this year, and he still finds himself almost blinded by her beauty. He is truly a lucky man, for her beauty is not just skin deep. At the stove, gnarled and shaky hands slowly crack two eggs into a bowl. Milk is added, and the sharp click of the fork is accompanied by the warm sizzle of butter in the cast-iron skillet. The eggs are poured in the pan, and while the house slowly fills with the rich smell of breakfast, Austin carefully washes the bowl. Should anyone happen to stop by, he can't let things be out of place. Violet teases him about his tendency to be a perfectionist. She always smiles at his answer; "I became a perfectionist the day I laid eyes on your simple perfection."
The painful arthritis Austin has been fighting for the last 10 years is gaining on him; it is getting harder to pretend the hurt isn't there. And it is getting harder to fight old age in a world that seems to have outgrown him. In this world there are 'computers', he will never understand them, or the need for people to trust them with everything they own! His great-grandchildren, when they come to visit, are always full of stories of war and great battles waged; of alien invasions and pus covered, blood oozing monsters. Shaking his head, Austin remembers his childhood. He remembers loving to fish, and Baker's Pond was an ideal spot. After his morning chores on the farm, his mother would tuck two hot biscuits into his shirt pocket and swat him off with her apron. Away he'd run, with his pole in hand. Mother always cooked the fish he caught, no matter what the size or type. His father put him to work in the chicken house when he was 13; he learned hard work and dedication that year, but still cannot eat chicken to this day. He was smiling while he put breakfast on the table.
He and his wife are lucky, he often reminds her, because they still have sharp minds and can still live alone together in the house that has seen the birth and rearing of their 4 children. Violet rolls out of bed about 7 a.m.; curls like soft cotton balls frame her face. She lightly pads across the kitchen and props open the back door. Sunlight pours over the table while they eat their breakfast and read the newspaper.
Austin and Violet were married June 2, 1923, one year to the day after they met. Seventy-six years is a very long time to be with one person, but Austin knows it is because they are soul mates. Those many years filled with kids, jobs, and various moves - but the days are quieter now. They spend most of their time reminiscing or just gazing at each other. Austin finds now that he appreciates the simplest gifts of living. Sometimes, when no one is looking, he'll breathe deep and hold it in longer than usual, as if he's savoring the moment.
Violet looks at him doing this just now and asks; "What are you doing?" Looking at her, with a small grin on his face, he says; "Why, I'm just breathing. Just enjoying life." He ponders one of the biggest misconceptions about the elderly; they are a lot different than young folks. Austin has the same thoughts float through his mind now, as when he was a boy. Only the calendar has changed.
Grimacing, he stands up from the table and slowly makes his way into the living room. It's another one of his 'spells', truly it is the arthritis giving him pain. He spends a few hours a day in pain. At times like this, he likes things quiet. If the pain gets too bad, Austin will go back to bed and try to sleep. Most of the time though, Violet can ease his mind with her soft hands and soothing words. She is in the room now, pulling out a photo album. The old, cracked leather gives away its true age as she pulls his favorite photo out. It was taken back in the days when Violet's hair was still golden, in fact, it was taken just a few short days after their wedding. He and some of her brothers had her hoisted in the air on their shoulders. The smile on her face was sheer radiance.
"Oh, remember when I looked like that?" She asks. "Look how handsome you were."
"Yes, I remember," he says, almost in a whisper. The warmth of Violet's hand on his is soothing, easing the pain. He looks at her and smiles; his eyes are pink around the rims.
"Let's go sit in the garden." She says.
Austin picks his usual spot to sit, on a rusty green glider within an arm's length of the tomatoes and just next to a stand of birch trees. This is his favorite place, he can hear the quiet rustle of the leaves overhead as a cool breeze teases them. His wife is sitting next to him, both in quiet contemplation. Buttoning up his light jacket, he is a little surprised at the bite the breeze has today. He and Violet have watched the seasons of the century change, and he feels, they have fought hard to stay the same. Austin sits and remembers the blissful immortality of youth. When you're young, you're so far away from death. But, when you get older, you know it's coming. No one wants to think about death, but he can't say that he's afraid of it. Sometimes, when he gets up in the morning, he'll read the obituaries and wonder if this will be the day.
The shadows grow longer, and it is time to return inside. They walk arm in arm down the small path back to the house. They have traveled this path countless numbers of times, yet still take their time. Violet is a lover of nature and wildlife, and she has never been able to resist the squirrels. Austin lovingly watches his wife as she sits patiently, holding a walnut between her thumb and forefinger. She has found that they come to her easier if she holds the nut this way. Duly satisfied that she has stocked them up for the night, they continue on.
Once inside, they spend some time working on the daily crossword, and finishing up the newspaper. He has always been good at crosswords, but they are really Violet's passion. Just one of the many things they do together. They finally decide that it is time for bed, and Violet heads there first. Austin slowly walks around the house, making sure the doors are locked and all the lights are out. He runs his hand down the dark hallway, to feel his way to the bedroom.
The covers are turned down, and Violet looks like she's already asleep.
"Violet?" He whispers.
"Yes " She whispers back.
"I love you."
"And I love you."
A light hand rests upon his shoulder, and he drifts off to sleep. Smiling.