The Wah Watusi
Nevermind that he committed suicide the next morning, Ernest Hemingway’s famous last words to his wife were romantic.
“Good night my kitten.”
By comparison, my husband Larry’s last words to me, “Come inside already. That garden of yours is gonna be the death of you,” sound lackluster if not controlling; and about as romantic as “Pass the salt.”
If Larry said those words once, he said them 999 times, repeated every time I was out there on me time, compulsively, belligerently, thrusting open the kitchen window on high octane, even when his sciatica was acting up, hollering each syllable with the same emphasis in exact order, like a mantra, unable to think creatively whatsoever, never contemplating reversing the two simple silly sentences, let alone inserting an alternate adverb, and why couldn’t he mix things up and call out to me from the back door, instead of the kitchen window above the sink each and every time? Couldn’t he for once avoid messing with the delicate hang of my pressed curtain tiers?
I’d just ignore him, sort of, because although I didn’t run in like possum on a vole back to the house, I could feel my shoveling arm auto shift into high gear, slicing earth like a deli meat until I plum tuckered out calling it quits. As I’d enter the back door all sweaty and ravenous; sorely in need of a beverage, a meal and a body rinse, he’d be sitting at the table twiddling and in-betweening waiting on me to fix his supper instead of putting up a pot for me, (mostly ’cause he was nearly blind as a bat towards the end), so naturally I’d get to fixing right away but not before I’d say,
“Larry you’ve gone and done it again! Look at my curtains!”
But the last time he called out from the window was different. By the time I got into the kitchen, I did not inherit the opportunity to demonstrate a retaliatory curtain kerfuffle. Larry’s head was face down on the kitchen table like a big pile of silly putty on a newspaper, deceased from a massive aneurysm.
The sad truth is, ironically; and I hate to admit this, Larry’s last words were 100 percent accurate. The garden was the death of me. I was found by my conscientious mailman too late; as I succumbed to heat stroke on a sunny unseasonable 95 degree day in early June. His postal eagle eye caught a glimpse of me while he stepped up onto the porch to deliver my chamomile tea. He noticed me in the side yard slumped over a cluster of azaleas and dialed 911; even attempted to pull me into the shade while my clippers were still married to my fingers, not knowing if it was too late, poor thing, since with the back of his hand he felt the high heat coming off my tomato face, expecting death to be cold, not realizing I was no different than a shrimp on the bar-be.
But that was then, and as I retell all that memory lane nonsense, Larry is right here beside me chucking a chuckle that brings out his sweet dimples, those same dimples that had been lost with age, swallowed up by the sundry cavernous lines that come with fretting over time. Not sure if I’m supposed to let the cat out of the bag, but on this side, when you get to the gate, there is a form to fill out. Old school, no wifi. You get a pencil and a manilla envelope with your name on the outside (obviously no need for an address), with your D.O.B. and D.O.D. under your name and inside the envelope is a questionnaire to be filled out with three absolute questions.
1. What age do you want to be for all eternity?
2. If you could do one thing with your time in eternity, what would that be?
3. If you could pick one person to share eternity with, who would that be?
Taking me somewhat by surprise, I wondered if Larry was right on the other side of that gate and if he was, what were his three answers? After laying him to rest, I admit I had not thought of him much while I toiled my days away betwixt the rutabaga and the beets. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my husband dearly and I was lonely without him, but a newly unbridled horse is gonna run.
Pencil in hand, slightly bewildered by my clarity, my mind automatically turned to our wedding day all those years ago, almost as if someone popped in an old VHS tape of our special day implanting it into my mind. There we were dancing The Wah Watusi in front of all our loved ones, like two 30 something year old kids, not caring who was in front of us, not wondering if we looked like fools; during the whole evening affair I maintained my focus on his luscious dimples, the comfortable sound of his laugh and our dancing feet; a sound I had forgotten about; the sound of young love.
Without knowing if my answers were to be accepted or denied, done, done, and done:
And the gate opened, and there you were, weren’t you Larry, looking as dashing as you did on the day we said “I do.”
So you see? Death ain’t so bad after all. Never did think too much about it when I was alive. Larry on the other hand admittedly did. But I don’t hold it against him. I’m too busy dancing without a care and staring into those dimples that somehow had gotten lost between the root vegetables; somewhere out there, on the other side.