Monday, June 8, 2009
Millie wanted ice cream.
That woman loves ice cream more than any other person who has ever existed. And she isn't picky about the type or kind either. In fact, she'd just as soon try a new flavor or topping than get a standard old favorite.
We sat in the living room, as two old people in their December years do, watching tv game shows, yelling out the answers when we knew them, mocking the other when we were wrong. We still hold hands. Sixty-two years of marriage, and I still get a surge of electricity by taking her hand in my mind. Its just as soft as it was when we were sixteen. Just as wiry and full of life. Just like her.
We were sitting there, holding hands like a couple of teenagers, and she turns to me.
"Ernest, can you get me some ice cream? Something full of chocolate..." And she gave me that look. The one that makes my heart completely melt. And of course I had to go. I was her eternal servant. Willingly.
"I hope one of these days you learn to get your own ice cream. You do still have a driver's license you know..." She laughed and I smiled. I kissed her forehead gently, then the tip of her nose. Hearing her giggle, the same sound she made the first moment I met her, makes me happier than if I were that Gates guy with the Windows business. Money isn't always the most important thing.
So now I'm shuffling around. My old man feet don't want to work as well as my teenage ones, or even my middle age ones. I still have my balance, which says alot. My friend Pep (his given name is Leon and he hates it) can't walk at all anymore without one of those metal and plastic contraptions out in front of him. You know the ones I'm talking about. With the tennis balls stuck on the ends. Yeah. Thank the Lord I'm not there yet. Yet. Old age is as uncertain as a ball balancing on the top of a flag pole during an earthquake. Except for the death part. That is fairly certain. And ironically enough, a relief. I'd hate to know I had to live forever.
I've still got the green and white truck, 1962 Ford, that I drive everywhere. Its reliable. I don't trust all the new cars, with their emission standards and computer chip operating systems. I'd much rather have my old Ford, with working parts I can see and fix easily. It's lasted this long. I've lasted this long. I sometimes wonder which one of us will go first.
The super market is barely five miles away. I wish I had brought Millie with me now that I pull in the parking lot. She is alot better at crowds than I am. I don't like to talk; sometimes I even pretend to be deaf, just so everyone leaves me alone. But Millie, she loves to talk. She bubbles and giggles and makes conversation like its going out of style. She may look like an old woman, but once she starts talking or laughing or even smiling, you'd think she was a teenager again. Just watching her at those moments entrances me. I still can't believe I'm the lucky bastard that gets to pull her into bed every night and hold her close.
"Mr. James! What are you out doing?" The only bad thing about Millie is that with her friendly demeanor, everyone thinks they know me as well. And she gave away my name. I turned to face my adversary, the manager, a plump blonde little thing, with watery eyes and too much lipstick.
"Just getting some ice cream. Millie needed a treat." She stopped walking toward me then, nodded and walked off, grabbing the walkie exploding in static at her hip. Thank God. As much as she moved, I could never understand how she managed to keep all that fat in her torso. Some women have talent I suppose.
It seems to take longer and longer every time I walk to the frozen foods aisles. My feet. I blame my old man feet. But I'd rather it take forever as long as I'm still doing it. The different varieties swam in front of my eyes. Chocolate... she wanted something really chocolatey this time...
Five minutes later, I was shuffling back to the front, ready to pay for my Double Brownie Fudge, when that manager came flipping around beside me again. I hate her.
"Mr. James, I called your daughter. She's on her way to get you."
"What in the world for?! I'm just getting ice cream. I can still walk!" See why I hate her? She's ridiculous and stupid.
"She's been looking for you. She just wants to talk." So I sat down and waited for Angela to get here. Poor thing. She ended up looking more like me than Millie. She got my dark hair and eyes. And my stubborness. At least she came by it honest.
"Dad! Dad, what are you doing out."
"Well, I was getting your mother some ice cream, but thanks to you, it is now Brownie Soup." Her eyes watered. I didn't mean to be so abrupt. I just say things before I think about them.
"Sorry, dad. Let's go home, ok?" I let her take my arm, and we walked outside. But my truck... my truck wasn't in the parking spot...
"Angie, where's my truck?"
"Oh? Your truck? Oh, Dan drove it home for you, don't worry." These kids. Thinking I'm so helpless. This was a bit of overkill, though.
We drove in silence the rest of the way home. I double bagged the ice cream. Millie's ice cream. But it was still leaking all over my slacks, making my hands sticky. Millie would not be happy. I looked up, and realized we were nowhere near my house.
"Angie! Why aren't you taking me home? Your mother is already going to be mad enough!"
"Dad... you live with me now, remember? You moved in a year ago." My mouth went dry. I lived with my daughter. I didn't have a truck now. They sold it, to my every protest and hidden tears.
"Angie, your mother lives their too, right?" I remembered, but I didn't want to be right. Her eyes watered again. I hate life.
"Dad, mom died a year ago. That's why you moved in. You forget every now and then. You walk over here to buy her ice cream. Its happened more than once. You disappear. But you always go to the same place." A lucid moment. I knew this was not common for me anymore.
"She wanted ice cream that day. Extra chocolate. I went to the store. Came home. And she was slumped over. Hand to her heart. If I had been there, or made her go with me..." Hot angry tears slashed down my face. How dare they remind me. I wanted to fall into senility, believing she was still here.
We were both silent again. Angela was crying. So was I. Reality was not where I wanted to be anymore. I closed my eyes...
The green and white truck started right up for me this time. It never does that. I put the Double Brownie Fudge beside me in the seat. Millie had never had it before. She was going to love it.
It was ice cream. And that woman loves ice cream more than any person I know.