floridagatorgirl

23 year old girl scientist, happily married to a man in uniform. In my 2nd year of my PhD, new home owner, and owner of 1 dog and 2 cats.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Don't Walk Around with All Your Goodies Hanging Out

I sat with my Uncle Charlie and drank my second glass of Reisling. He was wearing lime green polyester pants and a matching, coordinated top, with his obligatory FSU windbreaker keeping him warm. He looked so old, his eyes rimmed with red. I remembered when I last visited him in Tallahassee, with Fritz, his fly was open and he didn't realize it. I felt sad for him, but felt uncomfortable mentioning it to him, so told my brother Ben to. Ben didn't. My mom told me he had to wear a condom constantly because he'd become incontinent recently. More sadness.

Uncle Charlie told me how he goes to Waffle House down the street every morning for breakfast. He orders the same thing: one egg, over easy, with a side of bacon, raisin bread toasted, and coffee black. The waitresses fight over him because he's such a good tipper. There's another place, his favorite old coffee house, that he eats at occasionally, but it's more expensive and he has trouble getting there. He went yesterday morning before leaving for Miami, and tipped his favorite waitress and cook $20. That stuff is important, he told me. Always remember the people who help you.

He grabbed my hand while we were talking. For such a feeble 90 year old man, he had a suprisingly strong grip. He told me he loved me and thanked me for coming down to visit. He asked what I was doing in school, what I was studying. I always have trouble explaining it to people who aren't in science. I told him I was studying lungs and human breathing, getting my PhD. He smiled, said he was proud of me.

Suddenly, he gripped my hand tighter, and his pale blue eyes filled with tears. " I miss her so much," he said. "I just can't believe she's gone. I can't even explain how much I miss her. I think about her every day, the second I wake up. She took care of me, like I was her baby. I loved that woman, so much. I just don't really know what to do now that she's gone."

His wife, Hilda. I noticed he would grasp his wedding band and twist it. There was cloth tape wrapped around the back of his ring, to help it stay on his finger. He's lost weight since she died. He cried while talking to me, and his eyes wandered away. I think he forgot I was sitting there with him.

He's hard of hearing, so I had to talk loudly. It felt really awkward carrying my voice for such a serious, sad conversation. "I miss her too, Uncle Charlie. You took care of her, too. I know that meant so much to her, how you took care of her in the end." I clasped his hand, with it's age spots and big purple blue bruise. What can you say to a man who has just lost his wife of over 60 years? Maybe 70 years? I can't remember how long they were married.

Trying to lighten the situation, I told him and Margaret, his daughter in law, a story of Aunt Hilda's marriage advice for me. When I told her Fritz & I were getting married, she squealed like a little girl, she was so excited! She was in her hospital bed in Tallahassee, hooked up to tubes and wires, but still clapping her hands together and squealing.

She said, "Sarah, I will give you my marriage advice. This is my secret, what's kept your Uncle Charlie & I happy for (70?) years. I've never let him see me naked." then she giggled.

Me: "Um, Aunt Hilda, haha, I'm sure that's NOT the case. You guys have kids!"

AH: "Well, of course there were TIMES when I was naked, but I at least always kept my socks on! It's very important to always maintain a bit of mystery and romance. In other words, don't walk around with all your goodies hanging out."

We had a wonderful laugh together about that. It's my last memory of her before she passed away earlier this year.

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