“Another year, another birthday,” thought Abigail as she tried to straighten the collar on the new dress her grand daughter had given her to wear for the celebration of Abigail’s ninetieth birthday. Giving the collar one last tug with swollen misshapen knuckles from years of arthritis
Abigail looked into the mirror barely recognized the old woman staring back at her. “When did I become so old?”
“You’re only as old as you think Miss Abigail,” the answer came from the young aide whom she despised for being so damn perky and calling her that stupid name. After having spent over 50 years married to the love her life, bearing him five children, and grieving his death for the last 20 years the least she earned was the respect of being called Mrs. Peltson. She couldn’t count the times she had reminded the twit of those facts, but every day she continued to chirp Miss Abigail like a broken record.
“I didn’t realize I’d spoken out loud Angie. Please quit fussing with the bed. I made it myself this morning. My daughter and grand daughter will be here to pick me up soon. I’d like to have few minutes alone to prepare myself if you don’t mind.”
“Naw Miss Abigail, I don’t mind at’al. You look just fine. Just make sure you go pee before they come and take a fresh pair of drawers with yaÃ¢Â?Â¦..ya knowÃ¢Â?Â¦just in caseÃ¢Â?Â¦” her voice trailed off as she walked out of the room and down the hall of the nursing home.
“Take me now Lord. Take me now.” Abigail muttered trying to calm her rising temper. “Since when have I needed toilet training instructionsÃ¢Â?Â¦James, If you don’t come soon and take me away from here to join you soon. I swear I’m going to kill her one of these days,” she huffed throwing things from her regular purse into the purse that she had decided to use that day.
“How have you been mom?” Jessie asked as they drove away from the nursing home where her mother had lived for the last ten years.
“I think you already know the answer to that Jessie. I hate living in that place. I miss my home. I miss my gardens,” Abigail threw back. Much more quietly she said, “I miss James.”
This was the same argument that began every time she and Jessie talked since Jessie and her husband had committed her to living in that horrible place.
“I may be ninety but I’m still perfectly capable of taking care of myself, just as I have ever since your father died.” Abigail said in a louder voice so her daughter couldn’t pretend she didn’t hear her.
“Mom, please let’s not have this discussion again. I know you weren’t ready for the nursing home but you couldn’t keep living on the farm either. It was too isolated for you to live there alone. Dad never did put in a decent heating system or even indoor plumbing. It was one thing to live there in the summer but what were you going to do in the dead of winter? Without Raymond there to keep an eye on the animals and do chores there was no longer any choice but to move you. Remember it was you who vetoed the idea of hiring another live-in farmhand.” Jessie repeated the same old reasons she always gave her mom. She was as tired of this argument as she was sure her mom was. ” If there had been any openings at the retirement villa, which there weren’t at the time, we would have tried to get you in there. Losing your temper and taking a swing at Ralph didn’t help any. The hospital bills for the hip surgery you had after you swung and missed pretty well put paid to what savings you had. The nursing home was the only option.”
“Mom, Grandma, please don’t fight. It’s Grandma’s birthday today. How often do you get to celebrate your ninetieth birthday? It’s going to be a beautiful day and everyone is going to be there today,” a pleading voice came from the backseat.
“Abby’s right. It’s too beautiful of day to be fighting mom. We should be celebrating,” Jessie said echoing her young daughter’s sentiments while looking at Abby lovingly in the rear view mirror. Abigail could never refuse a request from her young namesake. She had been so proud when Jessie had laid the beautiful baby girl in her arms twelve years ago and told her that they had named the baby Abigail after her. Abby was kind, compassionate, and showed wisdom well beyond her years already. An easy silence filled the car for the rest of the ride to the nearby park.
It always amazed Abigail through the years how the humble family she and James started grew by leaps and bounds until the park was now crowded by at least sixty family members gathered around to celebrate her birthday. She looked around at the smiling faces each bearing some characteristic resemblance to the one standing next to them. Abigail’s heart once again swelled with pride. Abigail loved her family and normally loved life and believed in living each day fully. Lately though she had begun to feel tired. She felt as if there were more than just this decaying body she inhabited and day by day she felt the tug of somethingÃ¢Â?Â¦..something she couldn’t quite defineÃ¢Â?Â¦but she knew she had lived without James for too long. She missed having control over her own destiny, even her own daily schedule. She had never been afraid of dying. She had always believed in an after lifeÃ¢Â?Â¦.of something much better then what she had now. Until recently she had always felt the needs of others anchoring her to this plane. Looking around her now she realized that her time of being needed here was over, but not knowing how to get to the other side, all she felt now was a sense of waitingÃ¢Â?Â¦..waiting and wanting to start anew. Mentally shaking her head to rid herself of such nonsense she began to greet her family members trying to keep as many names straight as she could. It was bad enough to face the physical indignity of getting old but she would be damned if she would allow her memory to go the way of her young joints and nimble fingers. When it came time to blow out the many candles on the cake with the help of her small great-grandchildren Abigail wished with all her heart that James could be here to celebrate this day with her. She laughed along with the others at the antics of the little ones trying to blow out so many candles. She dapped at tears brought on by joy mixed with incredible pain She was thankful to be surrounded by her loved ones on such a beautiful day. She was loved them back, each and every one, and eventhough she cherished each moment she was with them; she missed the love she lost so long ago desperately.
Later escaping the eagle eye of her daughter, Jessie, Abigail decided to take herself for a short walk down to the shoreline. Feeling the breeze fluttering the hem of her dress and through her hair Abigail felt a peace she had not felt for a very long time. Out of earshot of the continuing party Abigail succumbed to the rhythmic lapping of the waves losing track of time and distance as she walked. Long after she would have normally tired and had to have stopped to rest Abigail saw a lone figure on the beach up ahead. The beat of her heart began to speed up as the distance between her and the now familiar man closed. A giddy laugh escaped her lips as they both broke into a run to meet. He held her body close as he lifted her off her feet swinging her around in a half circle before sliding her down his body for a long awaited kiss.
“James,” she sighed.
“Abigail,” he said as he smiled down at her.
“I’ve been waiting so long for you to come for me,” she said breathless with love and the desire she had not felt since she was young.
“I’m here now. Happy Birthday.”