A Long Christmas Good ByebyJenny_Jackson©
Roberta walked slowly down the long, lonely hospital corridor. She hated this walk She had made it daily for weeks. In a room at the end of the corridor lay her husband of forty odd years. It physically pained her to come here and sit by his side every day. He was unresponsive and already far, far away from the world they had shared together.
Even coming here today so close to Christmas, passing the bell ringers and people hurrying to buy gifts made no difference in the way Roberta felt. This was a sad day, just like it had been for so many days before. Their two boys, Harry and Bill, had their own lives and families now. They did not really have room for two old people. Did they even care? They most likely told themselves they did, but did they really?
The day nurse behind the desk looked away as she passed. Roberta knew this could only mean one thing. Edward would not last much longer. Roberta wanted to ask herself if Ed's death would be a bad thing filled with remorse and loss or would she feel relief in the end or maybe something else? She feared any outcome. But as the dutiful wife she trudged onward down the cold, sterile corridor everyday.
At the door, Roberta said, "Good morning, Ed." She tried to sound cheery, but why? Ed was beyond hearing, the nurses were nowhere around and the doctors had already told her they had given up on Ed. Not in so many words, of course. Doctors never say those things. But Roberta could tell by their demeanor that was what they really meant.
The woman moved a chair next to the head of the bed just as she had done many times before and sat. "I got a letter from Billy. He got a new job down at Lubbock," she told her husband. "Milly called me last night. You remember, Milly? She was Harold's wife before he passed away." Roberta went on and on. Bringing Ed the latest family news and gossip had become as much a part of her daily routine as that long, lonely walk down the corridor outside the room.
At ten O'Clock Doctor Chandler arrived. Without saying a word he opened Ed's chart and read. Then took out his pen and made a notation and started to leave. But he stopped and looked at Roberta. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Stone, but I'm afraid it won't be long now. Maybe tonight. Maybe tomorrow. But not long. His body is shutting down now."
Roberta looked up at Doctor Chandler. She could see the pity in his eyes. Pity? Is that what she wanted sitting here waiting for her husband to die? She opened her mouth to speak. Angry words rose in her throat but all that could come out was, "I know." And there it was. Even Roberta admitted there was no hope. Soon, after all these years, Ed would be dead and she would be alone. How would she cope? How could she?
Doctor Chandler took her hand. "What about your kids? Do you think they should be here? I can call them for you it that's what you want."
The woman shook her head. "No. They have their own lives." Roberta reached out and took Ed's cold hand. "We have each other. That is enough for us." But was it really? Roberta closed her eyes and remembered the first Christmas she and Ed shared together. That little apartment on Cedar Street was so small the only Christmas tree they could fit in sat perched on an end table. Roberta smiled. Thinking back that tree could not have been more than three feet tall and the few ornaments they could afford at that time only made the tree look even poorer.
"I love it, Ed. Our first Christmas. We have a tree. We have each other. What else is there?" She could still hear those words in her mind. Those were good days. Ed was so young and handsome. And Roberta, though pregnant with Harry, was lovely. They laughed together that night as they handed each other their paltry gifts. "We were so poor," she remembered. "But we had everything we needed. We had each other and a child on the way. We had the beginnings of a life. That was all we cared about."
It was true that Ed was not making much money in those days working as a janitor while going to college. But the real thing was we were so in love. "Funny," she thought. "This man here is still the same man I have loved all these years."
As time went on, Ed graduated from the University of Oregon and found a decent job. They moved into a bigger apartment. That Christmas was the time Harry turned into "the terrible threes" and Roberta had another child in the oven. This time it would be Billy. With Harry's help the apartment was decorated with so many lovely things. A fine, tall tree loaded with ornaments and twinkling lights, poinsettias and garlands. Their home was lovely. Their home was love.
There were so many presents under the tree. That was the year Ed had bought her the silver service. Where he found the money still remains a mystery and Roberta never asked. After all, this is a gift of love and should not have been defiled by questions. She remembered the grin on Ed's face when he opened the box with the new winter parka she had bought him. She had to smile even now years later. All the toys for Harry and the gifts to each other were given from the heart with love. That's what made the gifts special to each of them.
The following morning, Roberta and Ed were awakened by the sounds of Harry ripping and tearing at his presents -- the rocking horse, the pajamas, the teddy bear and all the other things. As each was opened, Harry cried with glee and delight as he sat amidst a pile of torn wrapping paper and ribbon. That was such a good Christmas.
"Mom?" came the voice of Harry from the doorway.
Roberta returned from her memories and stood to turn toward her son. "Oh, Harry. It's so good to see you," she said taking him in her arms and holding him.
"Mom, why didn't you tell us dad was..."
"Harry..." Roberta couldn't finish. Tears flowed down her cheeks. All the weeks of pent up grief suddenly burst forth. "Oh, Harry."
"Billy's here too, Mom. He's down stairs with the kids. He'll be here in a minute."
Roberta could say nothing through her tears. Her body shook with sobs and just that said it best.
"Hi, Mom." It was Billy now at the door. "Hi, grandma," came the greeting from Harry's Melissa and Billy's Tommy. Roberta let go of Harry and took the two children in her arms and kissed their faces.
"It's so good to have you all here," she said sadly. "I spoke to the doctor a while ago. Grampa Ed won't be with us much longer. You should go to him." The two children went to Ed's bed and touched his arm.
"Is grandpa going to heaven, grandma?" Tommy asked.
"Yes, Tommy. He will be with God very soon now," Roberta told the boy, sadly.
Melissa came to Roberta and took here hand. "Don't worry, grandma. We will take care of you."
Roberta smiled down at her grand daughter. "I know you will."
"Mom, Harry and I think you should get away from here for a while. We want you to come with us. We'll get something to eat and..." Billy said.
"Yes. It's been a long wait. I could use a break, I think. You go ahead. I want to say good bye to you dad. I won't be long."
Billy and Harry took the children's hands and moved toward the door. We'll wait for you in the lobby, Mom."
Roberta nodded, "I won't be long, son."
Again alone with her husband, Robert took his hand. "My darling," she said.
Ed gripped her hand and turned his head toward her. "I have loved you all these years."
Roberta leaned in and kissed his face. "My love."
Twenty minutes later in the lobby Billy took Harry by the arm. "Where is she? Maybe we better check on her."
"I'll go. You wait here with the kids," Harry said already walking quickly to the elevator. The ride to the fifth floor took only a minute. As the doors opened Harry say a great deal of activity. A nurse rushed by pushing a crash cart, almost running toward the end of the corridor.
Slowly, Harry walked forward to the end of the hallway. He was met by Doctor Chandler. The doctor took him by the elbow and led him off to one side. "I'm sorry, son."
Doctor Chandler looked uncomfortable. "Yes. But that's not all. You mother passed away too."
Harry stepped back in shock, then went to the door of the room. Roberta still sat in the chair, her head on Ed's chest, her eyes closed. There was a look of serenity on her face. All the pain was gone now. Roberta and Ed were together forever in their own final Christmas.