I sleep on my side of the bed, leaving her pillows where they are. Where they belong.
The ritual is the same each sunny Florida day. Stretch out in the Jacuzzi. Swim ten laps. Dress and suit up for golf. And don’t forget the sun block.
She’ll call a couple of times. Or I will. Whachadoon?
We share a laugh or a bit of news.
Or click glasses to toast somebody, a nightly ritual even when we are 1,200 miles apart.
I came South ostensibly to check on the place, get the lanai furniture out of the garage, make sure everything still works.
And just incidentally to play a little golf.
Three weeks is the longest we have been apart in sixty-one years.
She wouldn’t come with me. The kids are coming for Thanksgiving. She has to get ready.
And she loves Autumn in the North. The first snow. Quiet days by the fire side with a good book or an old movie on TV. Bridge with friends. Charity work.
And the ubiquitous computer. Emails and texting to children, grandchildren, and old friends. Browsing, and the occasional game of spider solitaire.
She loves to cook, makes beautiful meals, even when eating alone.
I go to Subway. Or Beef O’Brady’s.
I’ll be back in Michigan a week before the turkey day. I’ll pitch in to help get the house ready to host 35 assorted children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, in laws, and even a boy friend.
They are already trash talking about the Harbor Springs 5K Turkey Trot and the Black Friday, nine hole, ear muff and snow boots golf classic.
I miss my sweet Pauline. Even wrote her a note to tuck away with the stack of long forgotten letters buried in the wicker chest downstairs.
I took her Dad out for dinner to ask for her hand in marriage in the summer of 1950. He told me she is a good worker and gave me his blessing.
We picked out the diamond ring on October 7th that year. Four days later she called me at midnight to say that her father had died in her arms.
Death was a stranger to me. Not to her. Before she was a woman, she had lost two brothers and her mother in separate traumatic tragedies.
Now she was alone. I promised her that when we got married, she would never be alone again.
We skipped three days of class at the University of Detroit to honeymoon at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. It was torn down long ago, but the memories abide.
She wanted six children. I did my part. For sixteen years we alternated between having babies and campaigning for public office.
I called the house. No answer. Called her cell phone. No answer. Called her friend and learned that she went to the club for some social event.
Some day one of us will go and one will stay behind. We’re both tough enough, I suppose. And there’s all that family.
But still, you can’t blame a guy for choking up a little.
Especially if he happens to be all alone.