When I first met my (future) wife around 1977, I drove a 1976 Monte Carlo, much like the one below only different! Mine was white with the black vinyl top. And maybe not quite as shiny. It also had magnesium wheels.
After we were married for a while, we sold the Monte Carlo and our major source of transportation was a 1946 Chevy pickup, much like the one below, only different!
Mine 1946 Chevy was not shiny but was rust and white colored. The white color had been painted over the original dark green color as was evident by the paint still on the engine’s firewall. The rust was not actually a paint color but was the color of oxidized metal or car cancer.
Anyhow, a friend of mine had installed a 1969 Chevy Impala, automatic engine in place of the old engine which had ‘died’. It died when a piston went through the wall of the engine which has the same effect as a bullet through the heart! The friend did a ‘transplant’ for me with much metallic surgery.
After work one afternoon, I drove my potential wife to the place of my chosing where I was going to have a serious talk with her. Living in western Nebraska, my choice location just happened to be an old abandoned sugar beet pulp pit. This pit was an eight sided ‘pit’ which looked much like a football stadium in shape. Though it was large, it was nowhere near as large as a true stadium. Its sloping cement walls looked as if they could have once held bleachers for fans to sit in. Over the years, one of the walls of the pit had crumbled which made it easier for us to climb up and over. Once we were inside, we would be completely out of sight of everyone which meant that we would have the whole place to ourselves. Though we were alone, it was clear that in previous years, we had not been the only ones to have visited the place. Others ‘visitors’ had used the pit as a dump site but I, in my romantic quest, played all of it into my plan.
Ideally, I would have taken my sweetheart into the mountains or at least used them as a backdrop, with a stream gently cascading at our feet. But, having no mountains closer than 100 miles away and the Platte River about three miles away, I adapted things in my own way. We walked, arm in arm over to an old, rusting wash machine which was resting on its side. I asked my Love to have a seat because I had something to ‘talk’ about. She cautiously obliged and I began my un-rehearsed speel.
“Pretend this washing machine is a huge rock. See the dry, dirt-clogged gutter where juice from the beet pulp used to drain into? Pretend it is actually a beautiful stream flowing down from the mountains all around us”.
Not quite seeing the same picture I was giving, “What mountains”? she asked.
I pointed to the edges of the pit which were maybe twenty feet high and said, “Those mountains”.
Eventually, she humored me although I’m sure she still didn’t see the same romantic setting I was laying out for her.
I continued. “Those weeds over there are rose bushes, for pretends and the sounds of the (nearby, still functioning) sugar factory are little birdies singing at the top of their little birdie lungs. Okay?”
Before she had a chance to question my wild imaginations any further, I decided I better get down to the business I had brought her to the pit for in the first place. I got down on one knee in the dirt, took her hand and asked her if she would marry me. How she could she resist my plea amongst such a romantic atmosphere was beyond me! At that point, it didn’t matter whether she saw the same scene I was seeing. The important thing was that she did not resist or refuse but accepted my offer and we sealed it with one of many thousands of kisses before and since then. I don’t mean one of thousands of pulp pit kisses! From there on out, we still haven’t lost the feeling of true love, going on 33 years now. I have come to the CONCLUSION that perhaps there are more romantic places than where I took my gal. If some guy ever wants to take one of my daughters down to the pit, I better be going along. You know, as part of the pretty scenery!
Sometimes, life comes at us fast. Suddenly, we find ourselves in the middle of a situation where we can not control the outcome. It’s times like those that we thank God He was there for us! Continue reading
“Betsy And Ike” is a ficticious story. I have added some pictures, (most of them are my own), hoping to portray a little bit of ‘life’ into my story. I hope you enjoy. Ivan
The other day, I was driving home from work. It had been a particularly frustrating day because the boss and I were butting heads over the project I was working on. We weren’t seeing things eye to eye, which, in other words meant that he was not seeing things my way. On top of that, I had been fighting with my wife all week.
Why I was in such a hurry to get home to my wife was beyond me. I was certain that another fight would be lurking in the shadows of my already cloudy horizon but I didn’t know what else to do.
Fighting with my wife had become a way of life more often than I wanted to admit. Evidently, we weren’t seeing eye to eye either. It just seemed like the stresses of my life were adding up faster than I could deal with them. If something didn’t change real soon, I was afraid that I was going to lose it. I was about to blow a gasket
It was a good thing it was a Friday. I was so ready for the weekend. Monday through Friday, I belonged to the boss but Saturdays were mine!
I was planning on sleeping in as late as I could and when I finally did get up, I would do exactly as I wanted to do. As for Sunday, well, Sunday was supposed to belong to the Lord.
Sunday was the day when the wife and I went to Church and pretended that everything was alright when we both knew it wasn’t.
But, at Church, we could hide behind our hypocritical smiles and pleasantries and nobody would know the difference. Nobody but God.
As I pondered that thought for as short of a time as I could, it suddenly dawned on me that the coming Sunday was going to be Mother’s Day, of all things!
Mother’s Day could not have come at a worse time though I knew full well that it always came the same time every year. It was beyond me how I was going to get through it.
With my mind on my troubled situation, I stabbed the gear shift of my sports car into a higher gear and sped for home.
Absorbed in those thoughts, I was snapped back to reality by the sound of a siren blaring behind me. Looking in my mirror, I saw the flashing red lights of a police car.
“Please let him be after someone else,” I thought but when I glanced down at my speedometer, I became painfully aware that he was after me.
Pulling over, I waited to see what I was in for. As it turned out, I ended up getting a ticket for doing seventeen miles over the posted speed limit. The cop handed me the ticket and I wadded it up, shoving it into my shirt pocket. Suddenly, I was mad at myself for speeding, mad at the cop for giving me a ticket and mad at the whole world in general. I was madder than I had been when I had left from work that day.
I started the car up and revved the motor heavily as the cop drove away, hoping he had not heard my hot-headed form of rebellion. I pumped the gas pedal several more times, none of which were necessary, but like a child, I was showing everybody just how mad I was about what had just happened.
It was then that I first noticed the old man. He was sitting on a bench not more than ten feet away from me. In his hand, he was holding a single carnation. He must have been waiting for a bus and had most likely been setting there the whole time. He had seen me get the ticket.
“I hope the old Geezer got his money’s worth,” I thought to myself. As I shoved the car into first gear, I gave him a dirty look and romped on the gas several more times. If the old man wanted a show, a show he would get! One he would likely not forget for a long time, if he lived for a long time, which I highly doubted he would.
Giving him one last crusty look, I laid rubber, smoking my tires as I left. The blue-black cloud drifted over to where he was sitting and in my mirror, I saw him pull out a cloth handkerchief and cough into it. Just before I lost him in my mirror, I saw him struggle to his feet and slowly walk down the street, the same direction in which I was going.
“You are so stupid”, I said silently but I was not talking to or about the old man. I was talking to myself. How could I have done what I just done?
“Shut up”! I said, this time talking out loud to myself. “Oh well, it didn’t matter” I thought, “because I probably would never see the old man again“.
But then, my mind brought back an uneasy memory. I was sure I had seen him before and I probably would see him again. With a car like mine and the actions I had just displayed, he was not likely to forget me or not notice me the next time. The more I thought about him, the more I knew I had seen the man before. As a matter of fact, I had seen him many times before. I had flown by him often on my way home. He was always sitting on one of those benches, waiting for a bus to come by and pick him up. That seemed to be a regular thing with him. But something seemed different that day. I recalled that usually, there was someone else waiting with him. A lady. An old lady used to sit beside him. Where was she? I had not seen her in a long time.
As I thought about it, I justified myself by thinking she wasn’t my problem and as far as that went, neither was he. They both meant nothing to me.
But as I drove on, I realized that I had slowed my pace down from what it had been when I had first left the office. Partially due to the fact that one ticket a day was enough for me but also, for some reason I couldn’t keep my mind from thinking about the old man. Everyday, or almost everyday, I would see him waiting on a bench. Waiting to die, I guessed but he had not died. Over the past year or so, I had seen him pretty often.
The more I thought about him, the more it bugged me. It really bugged me. It should not have, it did. An old man. That’s all he was. An old man. An old man. An old man….sitting…all by himself.
Even as I turned the car around, I told myself that I owed him nothing.
He was not my responsibility. He probably had people to take care of him. And besides, what was I going to do, apologize? Like I was going tell him, “Hey man, I saw how that jerk treated you so I beat him up and took his car for you”! Truth was, I had been a jerk and for some reason, I was beating myself up mentally.
What was I doing? What was I thinking? What was I going to say? He probably wasn’t even there. Secretly, I hoped the bus had already come and had picked him up.
That way, I wouldn’t have to face him. That way, the next time I went by him, I would speed by him, lawfully that is, and look the other way.
No such luck. Not that day. Evidently, the bus was not running on schedule, as usual. I hated bus drivers!
The old man had made it about six blocks from where I had left him in a cloud of rubber smelling smoke. He was sitting on a bench just as he had been sitting on the other one. I figured I would just make a u-turn and pull up beside him. He would never see me coming but as everything seemed to be going that day, that didn’t go according to my plans either. Even without the loud exhaust sound of my car, the old man had spotted me and was watching my every move as I turned around. He continued to watch me until I had pulled up beside him and shut off the motor. He said nothing.
He hardly moved, except for his eyes, which seemed to be piercing a hole in my very soul. I just looked back at him, not knowing what to say.
“Hi,” I said though it sounded quite lame.
“Good evening,” he replied then sat in silence once more. He hardly blinked and when he did, it gave me a little more assurance that he was not dead. What seemed like an eternity of uncomfortable silence passed before I spoke up again.
“Hi. I’m…..I’m…” I couldn’t get it out. I couldn’t say my name. What if he called me in for throwing smoke from my tires in his face? I couldn’t risk that so I started again.
“Hi. I’m sorry……” My voice trailed off because I didn’t know what to say next.
“Good evening, Sorry”, he said.
“Oh, my name’s not ‘Sorry’,” I stammered, trying to bring him up to speed. “What I mean is that I’m sorry about that jerk that sped off a few minutes ago.”
“Oh, that ‘jerk‘,” he said back. “Does ‘that jerk’ have a name that isn’t “Sorry“”? he asked.
At that point, I figured, “What does it matter? If he turns me in, he turns me in“. My day was going crummy, just like my whole week had. In fact, the whole of last year had been crummy the more I thought about it.
Rather embarrassed and quite sheepishly, I told him my name. He told me his and once more I said I apologized for my actions. Just as I was about to go, I nearly jumped out of my skin. From directly behind me, the loudest horn I had ever heard, sounded. Looking in my mirror, I saw the biggest bus I had ever seen, right on my tail! The driver was resting his chin in the palm of one hand while the fingers of his other hand steadily drummed on the steering wheel.
“What’s he doing here”? I asked the old man.
Looking at his watch, the old man said, “He’s driving his bus and he’s right on schedule, as usual. You’re in his spot.”
“Are you waiting on him”? I asked.
“Not anymore,” he told me. “Now, he’s waiting on me.”
“How about I give you a lift”? I asked without really thinking first before I spoke. I was hoping he would refuse, that he would get on the bus and we’d both be on our way. Separate ways, no less.
The old man just looked at me and I knew what the answer would be. “Not on your life! Not on my life”!
His only response was, “Wait here”, then he shuffled over to the open door of the bus. Though I couldn’t quite hear what they were saying, the next thing I knew, the driver was pulling the bus out around where I sat in my car, in his spot. He waved at me like we were the best of friends, which I knew we were not. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I had recklessly pulled in front of a bus, honked at a bus, shook my fist at bus drivers and so on. He had probably been on the receiving end of my nastiness more than once and just like with the old man, who could forget a car like mine?
After the bus had pulled completely away, the old man just stood there, looking the car over. Finally, it hit me that he was waiting for me to open the door. I leaned over and pushed it open for him. He stood a little longer then said, “I thought it would open by itself, as fancy of a rig as this is”.
“It’s not that fancy”, I said as he slid into the seat. He looked so small and it seemed like the seat was going to swallow him up.
“Yeah, there are cars that are fancier than mine”, I said, just making polite conversation.
“I suppose I have to buckle myself up too”, he said as he buckled himself in. He still had not closed the door so I got out, went around and closed it for him. He didn’t seem to notice as he was totally taken up by the inside of the car.
“This sure is a sweet ride”, he commented.
“Sweet ride?”, I repeated in my mind. Since when does an old man call a car a “sweet ride”? It didn’t matter who said it, it was a “sweet ride”.
Slowly, gently and as smoothly as possible, I pulled away from the curb, careful to not spin the tires. He looked over at me and asked innocently, “What? No smoke this time?”
I shook my head and smiled at him. “No, no smoke. Not unless you want some smoke”, I said, jokingly. I took a long look at him, not knowing what to think. His expression did not change.
“Are you serious”? I asked. His steady gaze into my eyes was all the answer I needed. When he cinched up his seatbelt, I knew for sure just how serious he really was.
Amazed, I looked for the next safe place to pull over, which just happened to be another bus stop. Before I pulled in, I checked my mirror first to make sure a bus was not going to be blasting his horn at me for stopping in his spot.
“This driver’s always late”, the old man said when he saw me checking out the bus stop.
I waited a moment for some of the traffic to clear because what I was about to do was, shall we say, not the most lawful. Nor was it the wisest either, but the old man had asked for it.
I revved up the engine several times, none of which impressed the old man any more then, than it had earlier at the stop where I had first seen him. None-the-less, I stomped on the gas, let my foot off of the brake and popped the clutch, all at the same time, setting the wheels in motion. As it turned out, I was well on my way to one of my best burn-outs I had ever accomplished!
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the old man trying to get a look in the mirror on his side of the car. The force of the forward motion of the car made it slightly difficult for him to do because he was being held so tightly against the back of his seat.
Again, just for the old man, I managed to burn rubber in a couple of gears but because of the congestion of the traffic we had caught up to, I had to back off of the gas pedal. There was no longer sufficient room to continue in my performance but I was pretty sure the old man had seen enough.
I tried to blend my car in with the rest of the traffic but a car like mine was hard to hide. Due to the large amount of blue/white smoke behind us, most of the cars had slowed down, not knowing what was on the other side of the smoke screen we had just left. At that point, all I wanted to do was put as much space between us and what I had just done.
“Stinks,” the old man said, breaking his silence.
“Stinks”? What stinks? I could not believe the old man did not approve of my “smoking the tires”, and that, just for him! I had probably burnt off fifty dollars of rubber from my tires and I didn’t run on cheap tires! Then I saw the old man waving his hand from side to side, fanning the air around him. There was a slight hint of blue colored smoke in the air of the car along with the odor of burning rubber. So that was what he was referring to! The smell of the smoke. The smile on his face assured me that I had done a good job and that he approved of it after all.
Trying to hide the pride I was feeling, I asked, “Where are we going”?, hoping we had not passed up his destination blocks ago.
“To visit with my wife”, he said, rather quietly. Then, with a bit of excitement in his voice, he asked me, “Would you like to meet her”?
“Sure”, I said though I didn’t really want to. But then again, I wasn’t really looking forward to getting home where more likely than not, I would be facing the possibility of another fight with my wife. That seemed to be my Friday night routine. And Saturday and Sunday and so on.
The way the night was going though wasn’t fitting my normal routine. First, the ticket, in front of the old man, then picking up the old man, peeling out for the old man and finally, taking the old man to his wife. What the old man would do after I dropped him off was not my concern. I was just doing my “good Samaritan act” by giving him a ride in the first place. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me. I didn’t owe him anything.
But then again, since I had agreed to meet his wife, I couldn’t just drop him off at the front entrance of his place like I had hoped to do. I felt a little bit like a politician. Kiss the babies, shake the hands of old men and hug the old ladies. After I had done my “good deed”, then I would be gone, never to be seen again.
We ended up passing the bus the old man would have ridden on if I had not volunteered to take him to his destination. As we drove by, the old man and the driver exchanged hearty waves. He watched me closely as he waited in his bus stop as I drove off with the old man.
“You just let me know where we’re going”, I said, noting that we were almost to the city limit sign.
Surely he lived nearby because there were no buses that ran much farther than where we were at.
Still, I drove on a bit more before he had me pull off onto a dirt road.
“Great”, I thought, “I just washed the car“!
Keeping it clean, I soon found out, was going to be the least of my worries. On the other hand, keeping the muffler on was going to be my biggest problem.
The old man spoke what had become painfully obvious.
“Your ride sits kind of low, doesn’t it”?
I didn’t reply to his observation but concentrated on not ripping off the whole under-carriage of my low-slung car.
I was relieved when at last, we came to a gate.
I looked in all directions, searching for a house but I didn’t see a single one.
What I did see were gravestones.
We had evidently taken the wrong road and had ended up in front of a country cemetery. Obviously, the old man had gotten us lost, which didn’t surprise me at all.
Frustrated, I put the car into reverse, preparing to leave when I noticed the old man was unbuckling his seatbelt.
“What are you doing”? I asked.
“We’re here”, he said. Then searching around the inside of the car, he asked, “Where’s the door handle”?
I put the car in neutral, sat the parking brake, shut off the engine and reached over the old man to open the door for him. By the time I got out and around to his side of the car, he had already climbed out. He gently held the carnation in his hand as I locked the car doors.
“Who do you think is going to steal it”? the old man asked. He had a valid point because there was no one anywhere. Feeling rather foolish that I had locked them, I replied, “Habit, I guess”.
“I guess”, he echoed.
“Where to now”? I asked as I continued to look for some small house, hidden away somewhere just out of sight.
“In there”, he said, pointing beyond the cemetery gate. I noticed that there was a lock on the gate which meant that we were going to have to climb the gate to get in. I was in a suit that cost over $500 dollars but I figured that if the old man could climb the gate, so could I, expensive suit or no suit.
I took the lead, climbing up to the top of the gate which was where I was when I heard the old man fiddling with the lock. The next thing I knew, the gate was swinging on its hinges, taking me with it. It picked up a little momentum and when it came to the end of it’s swing, it hit a post and just about threw me to the ground.
I saw that the old man was grinning as he looked at me. “Sweet ride?” he asked.
“Sweet ride”, I repeated. It’s funny how, as a kid, I used to enjoy riding a gate like I had just done. As a full-grown man, I did my best to hide how much I still enjoyed it. All but the jolting stop. That hurt a bit.
I was somewhat embarrassed at what had just happened and it didn’t help matters any when the old man dangled something from his hand for me to see. He said, “They gave me my own key….for my sweet ride”.
I climbed off the gate and sheepishly pushed it back to where it had swung from. The old man, having entered normally, re-locked the gate. I looked at him, he looked at me then he asked, “Ready to meet my wife?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be”, I said as I tried to brush some rust from my suit pants I had picked up from the gate.
I followed him along a well-worn path that led away from the gate, through the grass, into the heart of the cemetery.
I still wasn’t sure what was going on until suddenly, like a bolt of lightning out of the blue, it came to me. I was going to meet his wife….in the cemetery. His wife was….dead and we were going to visit her grave.
Looking down on the path we were walking on, I realized it must have been the old man’s constant coming and going that wore the path.
I felt real ignorant because it had taken me so long to catch on to what we were about to do. It felt a knot was forming inside of my stomach and I wanted to turn and follow the path back to the car as fast as I could. I didn’t want to meet his wife after all but I had already made a commitment of which I could not back out on.
The old man must have noticed my hesitation because he stopped and asked, “Are you sure you still want to meet my wife after all”?
I tried to sound convincing with my answer.
I stumbled all over myself when I asked, “How long has she been……How long has your wife been…..deceased? Gone, I mean!”
His reply was, “My dearest sweet Betsy has been gone eleven months and twenty-seven days. This Mother’s Day will be one year.”
After a moment of silence, he then added, “Much too long”. We continued a bit further down the path.
I looked at the old man, who seemed to be overwhelmed with grief and loneliness. He looked so small and frail. For almost a full year, he had been coming to this cemetery to “visit” his wife.
Even before we were actually at her grave, I picked it out. Two things gave it‘s location away. One was that the well-worn trail ended at her grave. The second was because of the stack of dried carnations that were neatly stacked on the ground next to her stone. I estimated that there must have been several dozen carnations there, each in a different state of decomposition. Those on the top were the freshest and the least wilted and dried. Those on the bottom of the stack were crumbly, moldy and turning back into soil.
“Hello, my Beloved Betsy”, he said lovingly as he knelt in front of her grave. Then nodding slightly in my direction, he said, “I brought someone with me.”
I stood there in silence, quietly, almost reverently waiting. It all seemed a bit eerie and I begun to feel uneasy, just standing there, staring at his wife’s gravestone. What was I going to do next?
Then old man turned to me and with a smile, he said, “I figured you could introduce yourself and tell her a little bit about you.”
“What? Me”? I asked in surprise.
“Don’t see anyone else here, do you“?, he asked. There’s just me, you know and I don’t know you as well as you know you. Besides, she hears from me every day.”
Still stammering and stuttering, I questioned “Me? I, I don’t know. I wouldn’t know what to say. I’ve never talked to, um, I’ve, uh, I’ve never spoke to, um…”
“You’ve never spoke to my wife before? If I were you, I’d begin by telling her who you are, like I suggested in the first place. That would be a good place to start.”
When I still hesitated, the old man put a clincher on the deal.
“Here, you give her her flower. She would have liked that. Carnations have always been her favorite flower, even before we got married.”
Handing the carnation to me, he encouraged me, saying, “Go ahead.”
Directing his attention to her gravestone once more, he said, “My Beloved, I’m going to do a little tidying up around here while you two get better acquainted. I‘ll be back shortly”
Having said that, he left me standing there, holding a solitary carnation in my cold, sweaty hands. The old man went to a nearby grave and began pulling weeds and sprigs of grass that were needing to be removed.
Glancing around, I noticed that every grave within eyesight of his wife’s grave had been plucked clean of stray weeds and grass. Not really knowing what to say, I began by doing what the old man had suggested. I introduced myself. Try as I might, I was still having trouble saying more because I had never done anything like this before.
From near by, the old man said, “Go ahead and tell her a little bit about yourself. She always liked to meet new people. Never a stranger in my wife’s life”, he said proudly.
“And give her her flower, before you kill it”, he cautioned.
I laid the carnation on top of the freshest carnations in the bunch that were already there. I then tried to tell her a little bit about myself but it felt so awkward that there were long periods of silence. Fortunately, for me, the old man came back with a handful of grass and weeds he had just pulled.
Handing them to me, he said, “We’ll throw these over the cliff on our way out.”
He dusted off his shirt and the knees of his pants and spoke to Betsy.
“He isn’t much of a talker, is he? Officer Thomas doesn’t think he’s much of a driver, though he did get me here, safe and sound”, he said with a chuckle. I even had to laugh at that.
He continued speaking.
“He’s does have a sweet ride. Did he tell you about his sweet ride?”
He looked back at me and I shook my head ‘no”. He turned back and continued the conversation with his wife as if she was alive and right there in front of him.
“Did you see that sunset last night? Wasn’t it beautiful?
The days are getting longer now and the flowers are blooming.
The trees are budding too.
Remember how we used to wake up to the sound of robins every morning?
They’ve built another nest, out in your favorite tree and they still try to wake me up every morning.
What they don’t know is that I’ve already been up long before the sun comes up. I just don’t sleep like I used to.”
I could hear the weariness in his voice but he recovered quickly and continued.
“Burt, my bus driver says, ‘Hello’ and the girls down at the grocery store say, “Hi’. Everyone down at the Senior Center always asks how I am doing and keep an eye on me. Of course, not like you did.”
The old man stopped and I could tell he was deeply absorbed in memory. When he spoke again, his voice was shaky and his hands trembled.
“Give Johnny, our boy, my love.
Me and his fellow Vets are taking real good care of his site and making it look real nice.”
His next words were hard for me to hear and a huge lump formed in my throat, threatening to choke me.
“I am so proud of what he did.”
The tears that started welling up in my eyes couldn’t be helped. The old man’s voice was slightly more than a whisper.
He went on to say, “My Beloved Betsy, I miss you so much and it hurts so bad. How I wish you had not gone away but it’s okay. Keep watching and keep holding on. I’ll be coming home soon enough.”
I could hold back my tears no more and let them fall freely. Through my tears, I saw Betsy’s name, the date of her birth and her death on the gravestone. Next to her name was the old man’s name, the date of his birth and a spot to be filled in upon his death, after he joined their son, Johnny, and her.
His name, I found out was “Ike” and between their names, the words, ‘I love you’ were etched in the stone. Below those words, there were four other letters. They were ‘AHAW’, which I could not figure out.
The old man, Ike, did one last thing before he go up from where he had knelt. Kissing the fingertips of one of his shaking hands, he then placed those finger tips on her name.
He softly said, “I love you, Betsy. Always have, always will.”
As he rose, his tears slid down his wrinkled face, falling on her grave. My own tears and sobs gave away that I had been deeply moved. Had Ike not turned to go, I would have cried out loud, like a baby.
Silently, we walked to the edge of the cemetery till we were at the edge of a cliff.
I tossed the weeds and grass Ike had given me earlier then we walked back down the path to where the car sat.
I waited patiently while Ike unlocked the gate. Then, he locked it up after us.
Still in silence, we drove back down a pleasant, shady lane which had seemed such a menacing threat to the under-carriage of my car on the trip in.
As we entered the city, somehow, it looked warm and inviting, not hectic and busy like I had always seen it before.
Even with the steady flow of frazzled commuters trying to get home, I felt calm.
For the first time in a long time, I noticed that the flowers were, in deed, blooming and the trees budding, just as Ike had told Betsy they were.
Much to my delight, I happened upon the spot where the bus drivers take their breaks at the end of the line before they returned to the heart of downtown.
I probably broke a cardinal rule or two by pulling into the small parking area that was clearly marked, ‘BUSES ONLY’ but I had to take the risk.
Fortunately, at that time of evening, there was only one bus there. What I wanted to do wouldn’t take long.
“You must be Burt”, I said excitedly to the bus driver as I stood just inside the open door of the bus.
Ike waited in the car. A mountain of a man got up out of his seat and slowly extended his hand to shake my hand.
“That would be me,” he said as his over-sized hand swallowed up my own in a firm handshake.
I explained what had just had happened and asked him if he knew what Ike’s address was so I could take him home. He said he didn’t rightly know because Ike had always insisted on getting off in front of the Senior Center. Ike had assured Burt that the Center had a van which took him home when he was ready to go.
I thanked him for the information and turned to leave.
“Just a minute”, Burt said in his thunderous voice.
He motioned for me to get back on the bus and when I did, he gave me a big bear hug which I was not expecting. He could have crushed me in those arms if he had wanted to but he didn’t.
We exchanged phone numbers then Ike and I were on our way to the Senior Center. Most of the way there, Ike was humming a tune, the words of which I failed to recall until he softly sang a little bit of the song.
“Oh do you remember sweet Betsy from Pike,”
“Who crossed the prairie with he lover Ike?”
That’s what it was. Sweet Betsy From Pike”.
I dropped Ike off at the Senior Center and made my way towards home.
From then on, over the next few weeks, I made sure I left work on time so that I could take Ike to see his wife. In doing so, I found out more about him and Betsy and they found out more about me. Things like how I had stopped fighting with my wife and how we had one of the best Mother’s Days ever. It was only after I shared that with him that I realized how painful Mother’s Day must be for him because of Betsy’s death. He assured me that he and Betsy had also had a wonderful Mother’s Day together as well.
As Father’s Day rolled around, I made special arrangements for my wife and I to pick up Ike and take him to our church.
He seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself and everyone at church was happy to meet him. They were all so glad that he had come that morning. My wife and I were overjoyed and decided that if he wanted us to, we would make it a habit to pick him up and bring him to church with us.
When I presented the idea to him, I was crushed by his answer. He told me that he didn’t think he would be back. I didn’t understand why but I wasn’t going to push it. Not on Father’s Day. I just let it go.
The next day though, I got a disturbing call. It was Burt, the bus driver. He said he had not seen Ike that day and when he had stopped in to see the ladies at the grocery store, they said they had not seen him either. He had not been in to get his usual carnation. Someone from the Senior Center went to check up on him and had found that he had passed away the day before.
Burt, my wife and I and a few ladies from the store were all that attended his funeral. Ike had told me that all of his family and relatives had already gone on before him. He was the last one left.
After the funeral, it dawned on me why Ike had said he wouldn’t be back to our church. Evidently, he sensed that on that day, Father’s Day, his time on earth was close to being up.
He must have known that he was going to be with his beloved Betsy and their son, Johnny real soon. She had died the a year earlier, on Mother’s Day and Ike had died on Father’s Day.
From that day til the present, I have visited Ike and Betsy’s grave every chance I could. I would talk to both of them and tell them of beautiful sunsets and long days we were having. I told them of blooming flowers and budding trees and robins that sang early in the morning. I passed on the greetings from Burt and the grocery store ladies and their friends from the Senior Center.
I mentioned Johnny and the other Vets and then I told them how much I missed them.
I assured them that they needed to keep watching for me and holding on because someday, I too would be joining them.
I didn’t even try to hold back my tears. They fell freely as I placed two carnations at the base of their headstone.
The last thing I did before I left their grave was to kiss the fingertips of both of my hands. I then placed my finger tips of one of my hands on Betsy‘s name and my fingertips of my other hand on Ike‘s name.
Then I said, “I love you, Betsy. I love you Ike.”
Bringing my hands to the letters, “AHAW”, I said, “Since I met you, I love both of you. Always Have, Always Will.”
Posted in Fiction, Inspiration
Tagged Betsy, bus, cemetery, church, Father's Day, funeral, God, gravestone, Ike, Mother's Day, Pantera, Senior Center, stress, Vets
A young female checker was working the express lane at a local store, when an older- no, when a ‘mature’ gentleman began to unload his cart of groceries. It was obvious to the girl that he had not paid attention to the sign which said, ” 9 Items Or Less”. Rather coldly, the checker sneered, “Dude! You have way too many groceries, like over 21! Do you know what “over 21″ means, Dude“?
Still placing his groceries on the counter, the man responded: “Of course I know what “over 21” means. Let me tell you.”
“It takes over 21 minutes each morning when I wake up, just to find my pulse, to see if I am still alive or not.”
“Then I wash down over 21 different medications with over 21 ounces of liquid my doctor has told me I have to drink.”
“I have had over 21 operations or surgeries and have several scars over 21 inches long.”
“I have misplaced or lost over 21 pairs of glasses and when I do have a pair, I have to hold the paper over 21 inches away. Even then, it needs to be in over 21 font size, just so I can read it.”
“I have over 21 teeth in my mouth which are not my original teeth.”
“I have a little over 21 hairs per square inch on my balding head.”
“Sometimes, I have to be called over 21 times before I answer because I don’t hear so well anymore.”
“Every year, I replace over 21 batteries in my hearing aids.”
“When I listen to the radio, I have to turn the volume up to over 21 because of my hearing aids.”
“I have fought in over 21 battles for my country and have seen over 21 of my buddies lost in those battles.”
“I have gained over 21 pounds in the last few years which has caused me to put in over 21 holes in my belt.”
“Yes, I’d say I know a little something about what ’over 21’ means! Now, I’m going to ask you something”.
“If I out-live my third wife, the one to whom I have been married to for over 21 years- if I decide I want to get remarried, are you over 21, Dudette”!?
The checker’s only reply was; “Clean up on express lane”!