Mary sat at her kitchen table gazing through the window. The morning sun peeked over the trees promising another lovely summer day. She gripped her tea cup, lifted it to her lips, and took a cautious sip. The hot fluid warmed her as a single tear slid down her wrinkled cheek.
When will these tears ever stop? She sighed. He wouldn’t have wanted me this way.
It had been almost a year since William had died - A massive heart attack brought on by too many fatty, late-night indulgences. Of course, her home-grown cooking didn’t help matters either.
She took another sip of her tea. It would’ve been 63 years this August. Where did the time go? It feels like only yesterday we joined our lives and started to live. REALLY live.
Mother was shocked when I announced my marriage. Too bad it didn’t kill her.
Mary stared at a robin bouncing along on the grass looking for food, but it wasn’t enough to distract her, to stop those terrible memories from flooding her mind once again– where is dementia when you need it? She smirked at her own joke as she thought back to her childhood…
…too ugly…better learn to cook and clean…the only way you’ll ever get a man…
At eighty-two these words still haunted her, as did the daily beatings. The scars on my back healed but emotions run deep…at least I know how to cook and clean. Huh…ironic. The thing you drilled into me, was the very thing that took away my love…my entire life.
Mary left her mother’s home at twelve and became a Nanny for a family across town – room and board plus meals in exchange for the caring of baby Sue and three-year-old Randall. The work was hard, yet satisfying. Plus, Mary knew she’d one day make a great mom - she never once had the urge to belittle or beat her charges.
She glanced over at the family photo taken just before William’s heart attack. Six familiar, smiling faces looked back at her…
…that was a good day.
Her children did their best to help Mary after their father’s death. There was an endless supply of company and love poured out, but… it wasn’t the same. They had their own lives to lead, children to tend to. Often times Mary sat alone thinking…always thinking.
They say the first year is the hardest. Mary journeyed back in her mind…
…Halloween when the grand kids come by for homemade caramel corn. Thanksgiving… everyone gathered around waiting for William to crave the turkey – this year it was William JR. Christmas…sneaking a kiss under the mistletoe when no one was looking – the last of that tradition. New Year’s Eve, spent with good friends – this year alone, crying myself to sleep. Valentines Day, always a box of pecan chocolates, my favourite – no more candy…I need to lose weight anyway. Easter, was always my special honey-glazed ham and devilled eggs (how he loved to eat) – this Easter, Jane made Taco’s (who ever heard of tacos for Easter?) Mother’s Day when he always made me dinner…
…all over…all gone.
I just have to get through one, one more…our anniversary day.
Will it stop hurting then? Will that be the magical day?
Mary looked out over her beautiful rose bushes. At least I still have my gardens. I will never be alone as long as I have our roses.
William had planted them to her specifications – white, yellow, orange, and finally red, all in row from lightest to brightest. The buds would soon burst forth in a carnival of colours.
Suddenly tears sprang to Mary’s eyes. Who will bring me the first rose of the season?
She quickly swiped them away. It was just a silly tradition…no big deal…out of all the holidays this is the one you’re most upset about, she belittled herself.
Mary gulped down the rest of her now cold tea. Her ankles gave her a jolt of pain and she winched as she pushed herself up to standing.
Oh William, these old bones of mine feel ancient without you here.
“But, I better water the roses before it gets too hot,” she spoke out loud.
Mary giggled. “Better not let the kids hear me talking to myself, or laughing out loud.”
Mary looked around but no one was in sight. She gently lifted it to her nose and breathed in the familiar scent. The first rose was always the sweetest.
A wide smile spread across her face. Perhaps this would be that magical day…
This story is dedicated to my mother and is based on actual events of her life and a tradition my father started. Happy Valentine's Day!