© Copyright 2002, 2004 by Roxanne L. Green. All rights reserved. Personal copy is OK. Reposting or Internet Archiving prohibited. Posted by the author on December 21, 2004 to StoriesOnline.net
Sometimes I'll tell you when a story is true. Sometimes I'll tell you when a story is fictional. Sometimes I won't tell you either way. I don't know if this one is true or not. I won't know if it is or isn't true for many, many years.
This story is different from what I usually write, at least under this moniker. It is autobiographical, but it hasn't happened yet. I wrote it for myself, not for the reader. More than ten years ago, the "aunt" who raised me no longer recognized me. While visiting her, I met people who made the choice I make in this story. They have wandered around my mind ever since. I'm writing this story to set those characters free. I was urged to post it somewhere. Although it contains some sexuality, it doesn't have any sex, and very little stripping, so only a small piece is sort of on topic for this board.
I acknowledge help, especially from Stan, who has been supportive throughout, and also from Barb, Track Jim, Nemo, Starry, and Indian Outlaw, in working out logistical problems. I thank them all. Any remaining errors are mine alone. This is probably more in the nature of a first draft. Unfortunately, Stan died several years before the story says he did, but I've opted to not change that in this revision.
I prefer that my stories not be archived on the Internet, but anyone who wants it is free to make a personal copy.
Roxanne L. Green
September 16, 2002, Revised December 20, 2004.
Chapter 1: The Beginning
It had been five years since my beloved Hank went into Seaview Terrace Skilled Nursing Facility. Hank was my third husband.
My first husband hardly counted. It was more than sixty years ago, and it barely lasted two years. He was my early training husband. I haven't thought about him in I don't know how long.
Stan, my second husband, was the love of my life. He had been my best friend since childhood. We got married in our mid-twenties, and we didn't have nearly enough time together. He was sick for most of the twenty years we were together. He lived most of those years on borrowed time. As sick as he was, and even though we missed out on a lot, I wouldn't trade those years for all the gold in Fort Knox. I didn't know until I found them after he died, but Stan had managed to acquire a lethal dose of medicines in 2006. He was a strong-willed man. That he never used them in the last six years of his life is testament that he wasn't ready to go.
After he died, I was single for almost fifteen years. I wasn't celibate, nor was I always alone. I just knew I wasn't going to remarry. No man could come close to the standard Stan had set.
Then I met Hank. He was 66; I was 59. We dated for a couple of years, and then we tied the knot. It was great good fun for the first five years. Then he began to slip, mentally. After every test they knew, the doctors eliminated everything except Alzheimer's disease. I was Hank's caregiver for almost seven years. Finally, his care got to be too much for me.
The doctor convinced me to put him in the Alzheimer's wing of Seaview Terrace. I felt guilty, because I wasn't ready for a rest home yet. I was very tired, but I was still alive. I had a lot of living yet to do.
Relieved of the responsibility for his care, my tiredness went away. I didn't realize how draining his care was. Stan's care was not as difficult for me, but I was twenty years younger.
I visited Hank every day. I stayed for most of the day. Occasionally he was his old self. He talked a lot about the past; he didn't realize I wasn't the one who shared that past with him. Eventually, I was taking him to the dining room, and helping him to eat. I was taking him to the toilet, and changing him. He became less communicative, and angrier.
After a while, I began to take Wednesday off; I needed the day for myself.
Seaview Terrace had a support group. That's where I met Ron. He was handsome, charming, and funny. His wife, Marge, moved in about when my husband did. She had Alzheimer's too. Ron and I often sat together at the meetings. I don't remember exactly when, but we started going out to an early dinner after the support group meetings. Our spouses were still going to the dining room for meals. We ended up sitting together with them, a couple of times a week, at lunch.
Then I began taking Wednesday and Sunday off, for myself, and I was only spending 5 or 6 hours with Hank, on those days when I visited him. He seemed glad to see me, but often, I didn't think he knew who I was.
Ron and I began to come and go at the same times and days. Synchronizing our arrivals and departures were not planned, they just sort of happened. Often we'd go to dinner after we left them. Sometimes we went to an early bird movie before dinner. Then I started to take Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for myself. The time I spent with Hank dwindled to as little as four hours a day. Ron adjusted his schedule to match mine a couple of weeks later.
There was a lecture series at the university. It was every Wednesday night for eight weeks. I told Ron about it. He was interested, so I got tickets for us. It was exciting, talking with him before and after the lectures. We were both pretty well educated, and we shared many of the same viewpoints. We had dinner together first. After a couple of weeks, we were going out for coffee afterwards, too.
We were just friends.
Shortly after the lecture series ended, we were only visiting our spouses on Monday and Thursday. We got there about eleven o'clock. The four of us had lunch together, and we were gone by three. Neither of our spouses knew who we were, nor did they know when we last visited them.
Ron and I were greeting each other with hugs. We held hands walking down the hallways. We began to exchange kisses when we left.
We had dinner three or four days a week. Sometimes we'd meet for breakfast too. We went to the zoo, and to baseball games. We went to the races once a week in the summer. We took walks on the beach. We spent hours in the museums in Balboa Park.
We were still just friends. We had never been to each other's homes. We'd never been physically intimate -- until death do us part was firmly engrained on my mind -- but we'd been spiritually intimate for several months.
Ron told me about a one-day bus trip to the Getty Museum, in Los Angeles. I said I'd never seen it. He invited me to come on the trip with him.
Chapter 2: Going Away Together?
The trip was on a Thursday. That was one of our two remaining visitation days. It was the best Thursday either of us had in a long time. We didn't miss our spouses. They probably didn't miss us. We met for breakfast at Denny's at 615. The bus left at 7, beating the morning rush in San Diego, and missing the morning rush in Los Angeles.
We enjoyed the Getty; we enjoyed our time together even more. The bus stopped for dinner at a nice place. We didn't hit the road for home until well after the evening rush.
The bus was dark on the ride home. Many of our fellow travelers fell asleep. We didn't. We were holding hands, and talking quietly. At about San Clemente, he let go of my hand, and put his arm around me. I leaned over, and kissed him. It was a different kiss than the friendly pecks we'd been exchanging. This kiss took me back nearly 60 years. We cuddled the rest of the way home.
He walked me to my car. We exchanged a chaste kiss, and I was on my way home. I had pangs of guilt as I drove. What I had done felt wrong. What I wanted to do felt much more than wrong.
He phoned me on Friday. He wanted to get together, and walk on the beach.
I said no. That was the first time I told him no, for anything. I needed time to think. We agreed we wouldn't talk until Tuesday, at Seaview Terrace.
I got there a little after eleven. His car was not in the lot. I waited a few minutes, and went in. My husband had his usual reaction; he had no idea who I was. I talked to him about inconsequential things. He answered in monosyllabic words, not related to what I'd said.
At noon, I wheeled Hank to the dining room. As we rolled past her door, Ron wheeled Marge out. We pushed them down the hall to lunch. Marge had a magazine on her lap. Ron said he'd missed me last weekend. I told Ron I missed him too. There was no need to hide anything from Hank and Marge. Even if they somehow managed to figure out what we meant, they'd forget it momentarily.
The four of us sat at a table in the corner. We'd been sitting at the same table, most visits, for several months.
Ron talked to Marge about the magazine she carried into the dining room. I felt he was really talking to me. He was talking about vacations; showing Marge the pictures of places they'd been, and places they'd wanted to go, once upon a time. She was not responsive. I was paying close attention.
He gave me the book, as we wheeled our spouses back to their rooms. He asked "230?"
It was a warm day. I followed him out to the end of Harbor Island.
We sat on a bench, watching the sailboats come in, and an ocean liner depart. We looked at the vacation book. It was about bus tours.
"Will you take a trip with me?"
I said I thought a lot about us over the last few days. I told Ron how very much I treasured our time together, but such a trip was not a good idea. We were married to others. It wouldn't be the right thing to do.
.... There is more of this story ...