Growing older as a couple had not been easy for them. Anna had matured into a the role that was cast for her all those years ago. She was a little broader at the hips but still erect and proud. She was not the one they turned to look at when she entered the room but if they caught her eye, they knew she was the one that would demand attention. Her intellect shown through and the defiance she had displayed in her youth still lurked beneath the surface.
They were sitting on the porch as they had often done before during their 50 years of marriage. Early autumn had always been her favorite time of year. When Etta was small she would walk along the hillside and gather grass and dried weeds for arrangements that would sit on the mantel until Christmas. The boys always were with their fathers in those days. A late autumn fish or the quail that eluded them was on their minds. A walk in the September sun did not appeal to them. But now he walked with her and they sat together. Peace had settled over the house that became theirs when Oona and Mr. Eriksson were both gone.
The town it seemed had aged with them. The beautiful white house across the street that had belonged to May and the Aunties had been inherited by a shirttail relative and had been stripped of it’s trees and red furniture. It lay in ruins within months of May’s death. Before long a chain link fence was built to corral a black mongrel dog that bit at the shadows of those that passed by.
Anna and Donny had pulled the drapes on that side of the house and moved to the sunrise porch. It surprised them every year…the change of seasons that is. Everyone else in town would be hungry for the change but Anna thought of those last few days of warm sunshine as borrowed time. Can you believe how short the days are already? It just seems like yesterday we were reading on the porch until after nine oclock. She always smiled when the conversation turned to shortening days and dark, cold evening to come. Before you know it we will be shopping for Christmas. It was as thought it had never happened before, not since the dawning of time.
It had been that way with her when the children left home. She was surprised that they were actually grown up. Etta had been the first. Etta had been ill for most of her young life. Dark shadows and whispered threats filled her days and nights. But when the time came she moved out and began her life on her own. Anna had wondered how she would ever survive but in the end she was truly surprised that Etta’s unusual personality seemed to serve her well. Then she was surprised as the boys, each in their turn, left too.
All that time Anna had spent fighting for peace in the house had blurred the time consumed by raising her children. Her husband was secretive as a young man and dissembled when she asked how the day had gone and where he had gone hunting or fishing. They didn’t fight but always she felt a little frustrated. In later years there were other quirks that drove her mad. But now she couldn’t even remember what she was so angry about. The children had gone and they only had each other. Differences faded and they began finishing each others sentences.
The morning sun was shining on their faces now and her black skirt felt hot against her skin.
Did you see we had a letter from Etta? She said to tell you she loves you because she knew you wouldn’t read the letter. She is fine…she says. She and that man she married are separated and she is living in California now. TSK! What do you suppose happened with the children? I guess they are still with their father.
Do you think I should offer to go and help? No…your right. I suppose not. I don’t want to interfere and besides I don’t know what would become of you.
She smiled at the thought. He had never really conceded that he was dependent on her for anything. But still she felt responsible for him with the same affection she had felt for her children when they were little. She had known for a very long time that she was not the mother of three children…the fourth child was her husband. He had worked hard for many years to support them and a tiny limp belied his youthful appearance.
hy only a few days ago or so it seemed, they were having their coffee at 6:30 in the morning as the sun rose over the hill. How could that possibly be…it was only yesterday. She felt a start. Oh my goodness we are growing old. She turned to him thinking how late it really was…she saw that he had shut his eyes and a twitch told of a dream. She could not help but think that, in his dream, the fish were biting today. She would take care of him before all the others. She even felt a warmth born of…was that love?
Anna and Etta are characters I have written about for a couple of years. You will find most of the stories at the links above.