Anthrocide

Anthrocide.net is the official website for D.L. Hamilton, author of several Christian novels and essays.

Till It’s Gone

Jan felt fortunate to spot what appeared to be the lone unoccupied seat in the entire Gate 32 waiting area. Her carry-on was not that heavy, but lugging it all the way from the security screening area had been hard on her 63-year-old knees. The seat was on the end, next to a woman of similar age. Unlike Jan, whose dark hair had streaks of gray, this woman’s was snow white. She was sitting next to another woman whose obviously-dyed pinkish hair could not disguise the fact that she, too, was easily in her 60’s. A lean, elderly man sat on the other side of her, his foot in a medical walking boot, a metal cane across his lap. Jan heaved a sigh of relief as she sat down and put her carry-on and her purse at her feet. She smiled at the white-haired woman next to her and received one in return. The man leaned over toward the pink-haired woman, apparently his wife, and spoke softly.

His wife responded loudly enough for everyone nearby to hear. “Harvey, I told you to do that when we were on our way to the gate. Now you’re going to have to walk all that way back down to the restroom.”

The husband again said something quietly.

“Of course there’s time,” she announced with great exasperation. “They won’t even start boarding for another half hour. But you won’t have time if you just sit there.” The man struggled to his feet and hobbled off slowly down the main concourse. His wife shook her head and then turned to the white-haired woman and rolled her eyes. “Honestly, he never listens to a word I say. By the way, my name’s Margie.” She held out her hand.

The white-haired woman took it, smiled, and said, “Barbara. And I know what you mean. My husband is exactly the same way.”

First Margie, then Barbara turned and focused their attention on Jan. She smiled gently and said, “Jan,” as she took each woman’s hand briefly.

Margie nodded and then began again. “I told him that he should stop off at the restroom on the way here, but he insisted we find seats first. Now he’s having to limp all the way there and back.”

“Well there weren’t very many seats here,” said Jan. “I was lucky to get one. What happened to his foot?”

Margie tightened the corners of her mouth and shook her head again. “Oh, he was putting Christmas lights up on our house. I told him to find some neighborhood kid to do it for him, but he wouldn’t listen. Then he thought he was on the last rung of the ladder but was on the next-to-last and stepped off and rolled his ankle. I found him on his hands and knees trying to get up. I told him that’s what he deserves for not listening to me. Now he has to wear that boot for two more weeks. Men, honestly.”

“Oh,” said Barbara, “and they’re such babies when they’re not well. My husband got the flu last month and you’d have thought he had malaria along with the bubonic plague. I mean, it wasn’t stomach flu or anything, just headache, chills and fever, that sort of thing. He’d lay there and call out for me to bring him something to drink, or to adjust his pillows, or bring him a headache pill. He even asked me to make him chicken soup, for heaven’s sakes.”

“Well, you know,” said Margie, “it wasn’t so bad when Harvey was working and gone most of the day, but now that he’s retired he drives me crazy. He is constantly underfoot. At least he used to go golfing but now, with his foot, he—well, listen to this: just before we left to spend Christmas with our kids, I found him out in the garage, still in that boot mind you, sitting on one of my nice kitchen counter stools sawing wood. I asked him what in heaven’s name he thought he was doing and he said he was making a picture frame for me to put our grandkids’ latest picture in. I told him that for heaven’s sakes I could buy a picture frame at a yard sale if I wanted one and for him to get back in the house while I cleaned up the stool and put it back inside where it belonged. I can’t imagine how he even got it out there.”

Barbara sighed and shook her head. “I know. I used to be able to go to the grocery store and just get what I wanted. Now my husband tags along and he’s always asking if we really need this or if we should get the cheaper brand of that. The last time we went, I had to leave him for two minutes to use the restroom and when I got back he had put a quart of mint chocolate chip ice cream in the cart. I asked him what he thought he was doing since the doctor had said he needed to watch how many sweets he ate. You know what he said? ‘I like mint chocolate chip.’ Just like a little kid. ‘Well, you’re just going to have to get over it,’ I said and put it right back in the freezer. And speaking of kids, he’s just as bad as my son was when he was a teenager about leaving stuff strewn all over the place. Every night while we’re watching TV he kicks his shoes off and leaves them right in the middle of the living room floor where anybody can stumble over them. And do you think he’d be the one to pick them up? Ha!” She looked at Jan. “What about you, Jan? Your husband ever leave clothes and shoes scattered around?”

Jan nodded and said, “Yes.”

Just then an announcement came over the PA. “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. At this time we are ready to begin pre-boarding for Flight 1521 to Phoenix for families with young children and those who need assistance in boarding. Our regular boarding groups will begin in just a few minutes.”

Margie half stood and looked around. “Tsk, where is Harvey? I told him he needed to hurry because our flight would be leaving any minute. Now he’s going to make us late.” She sat back down and shook her head. Then she looked at Barbara. “You know what else drives me crazy about him? The toilet seat. I must have told him a hundred times to put it down when he finishes his business and every single time I go in the bathroom, there it is sticking right straight up in the air.”

Barbara laughed. “It’s the same way at my house.” Then she turned to Jan. “What about your husband, Jan? You’ve been pretty quiet.”

“If I got home to find my husband had left his things all over the place, I’d be the happiest woman in the world. You see, my husband of 39 years died seven months ago. I would give anything to be able to pick up after him and to loop my arm though his and walk by his side at the supermarket. And he could buy all the mint chocolate chip ice cream he wanted. If he were here to make me a picture frame, I’d put it in the most prominent place in the house, even if the corners didn’t match up. What I would give to, just one more time, hear his voice calling to me to bring him a drink or fluff his pillows. And if he wanted chicken soup, I’d run to bring him the best bowl of chicken soup he’d ever had. Oh, how I wish he were underfoot, as you put it, and that I could once again go in my bathroom and find he had left the toilet seat up. It’s… not so much trouble to lower it, after all.

“I’ve just been at my daughter’s and she keeps telling me it’s time to move on; that I need to seek companionship and maybe even romance so I won’t be lonely. But I’m not lonely for companionship or romance. I’m lonely for the man I loved so very much for 39 years.”

“All right, ladies and gentlemen, we are now ready for Group A to proceed to the boarding area and line up according to the number on your boarding pass. That’s Flight 1521 Boarding Group A.”

“Oh,” said Jan. “That’s me.” She gathered her purse and carry-on, stood up, and said to Margie and Barbara as she hurried away, “Nice meeting you.” After lining up to board, she checked back over her shoulder and saw that Barbara was on her phone and dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. She then caught a quick glimpse of Margie hurrying toward Harvey limping along some 20 yards up the concourse.

The gate attendant scanned Jan’s boarding pass and she headed down the gantry. I’ll take a window seat, she thought, just in case there’s a couple that would like to sit together.

A Short Circuit

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