She came to love him for his honesty. He would always chalk it up to
base stupidity. He insisted he was lousy at lying. He hadn't brains
enough to keep his stories straight. So he just said what was on
his mind, spoke directly and without worrying, without stopping
to think whether what he said might hurt or shame himself. In this
way he did not become hurt or ashamed easily. He was, in his old age, very thick-skinned indeed.
Jane, on the other hand, pegged him as wise beyond the need for dishonesty.
He felt in his bones, she knew, in a way that he himself didn't understand in
a way he could articulate (for if he could, he certainly would without
hesitation) that it was useless in the end to hide himself, to hide his thoughts,
to hide his embarrasment when ashamed, to hide his pain when hurt. He
somehow learned how to be open so early that it was as breathing to him.
Words fell out of his mouth as easily as the air itself.
His love for her was simple, pure, uncomplicated, and unconditional. The occasional
dispute during the decades of their marriage ended as often as not with him staring
into her smiling, clement face, saying, ``Jane, I'm wrong again. Do forgive me.''
Today found Edward Parsons feeling very old, sitting on the porch in front
of the Minnesota farm-house he bought a few years back after the last of
the kids moved out, chewing at a half-boxful of stale crackers and drinking
a root beer. The doctors told him to avoid alcohol since prescribing him
some big pink pills for some heart problem he had forgotten the name of,
and this was no problem for Ed. He found, though, that he couldn't give up
the heft of a glass bottle in his left hand, and the kiss of luke-warm
carbonated water at his mouth. So he acquired a taste for root beer.
On this day, as the sun went down, Ed noticed the tastes and textures
of the food he was eating getting more and more real, somehow, brighter
and sharper as if a wall of pictures in a dim room suddenly hit with a flashlight.
The salt of the crackers coated his lower lip, and he licked it off with relish.
The warm sweetness of the drink was almost too pleasurable.
He loved the purity of simple, common food.
As the breeze picked up and cooled his sweat-damp forehead, he remembered
another moment like this, remembered being much younger but in the same
way simply pausing to chew and swallow, to sit and pause, to rest between
times of work. He remembered feeling how big he could make one minute feel,
by drawing all of his senses up and making them drink in every part of
that time. He didn't care about being able to do that so much, then. It
was just a novelty when the minutes of his life were beyond his ability to reckon.
But now he certainly had fewer, and he wanted to hold to them more tightly.
And there was another thing about that moment, so much earlier, that was different.
He remembered this just as Jane's sandals padded on the porch-wood behind him,
as familiar arms rested on his shoulders, as a familiar, restful sigh flew through
his remaining hair.
He was lonely, then.