The games sometimes lasted until dark. In the field behind the Saunder’s house, Jack and his three buddies, Willie, Robert, and Tommy, defended their makeshift diamond against familiar challengers from other streets in the neighborhood. As Summer came to a close, tomorrow’s game would be the finale.
At the house John hopped in the shower as he had big plans for the evening. He had promised Rose he would pick her up at seven for dinner in his father’s convertible Buick Roadmaster. He was quite nervous, it was his first real date with a girl. Adjusting his tie, he glanced one last time in the mirror, his freshly shaved fuzz revealed his 17 year old face, he wiped his palms on his jacket and turned the light off behind him..
The party was memorable to say the least. After a day of cheering, drinking, and cheering some more in the student section, the football team had won its first bowl game in twenty years. The campus was electric as coeds mingled, laughed, and danced into the night. Jack had revelled in the madness with the guys until his eyes met Catherine’s at a party in the cellar of an old fraternity house. She was gorgeous, and Jack found that suddenly the football game, the beer, and his raucous friends were of little importance to him.
On the way home she had complained of cramps, and by the time her water had broken, he was driving fast but safely, not wanting to harm his two passengers sitting beside him. He was scared but tried to remain calm for Catherine, although she seemed to be the one in control. Jack remembered getting to the hospital but the rest was a blur of waiting, pushing, waiting more, screaming, almost fainting, and feeling helpless until suddenly they were alone and he was holding a 6 pound, 3 ounce bundle of life that he loved more than words could explain. They named her Susan.
Letting go of the bike, he watched it wobble clumsily but stay on course, ten feet, then twenty, then thirty. Jack jogged behind the small bike, ready to catch it should Susie lose control. He beamed with pride yet felt a tinge of regret watching his daughter remain steady on her own. The huge smile on her face made it all worthwile, she had finally done it. She didn’t need him to hold on anymore.
As usual, the arguments were over financial matters. The bills had continued to pile up as the money had become scarce. They would have to make sacrifices, as there were two kids, one going off to college in the fall. The stock portfolio had taken a hit, jobs had been downsized and cutbacks had been necessary. The house would not be sold, he was adamant about that. They would get by as they always did. He changed careers and continued, because it was what he had to do.
As he walked down the aisle, arm in arm with his beautiful baby girl, Jack wished the walk was farther. Just like the bike, he didn’t want to let her go. Reaching the altar he graciously kissed Susan on the cheek, slowly letting her hand slip away. Once again he was haunted with regret as he took his seat, he wasn’t needed any longer. Catherine put her hand on his knee, her moist eyes confessing gratitude.
A black dress, complete with the beautiful necklace that he had picked out himself only emphasized what Jack already knew, he had been a fortunate man. As he sipped champagne over a candlelight dinner, he had plenty to be thankful for; the past 30 years had been full of ups and downs but having the woman sitting across from him had gotten him through it all. Remember the cellar? They both laughed. Best night of my life…
Jack’s job at the home improvement box store had its moments, but for the most part kept him feeling useful. His hearing wasn’t what had once been, but that didn’t make him any less capable. He showed up every day eager to help, he needed to stay productive. The job kept him active, although the doctor had advised no more than twenty hours a week. He had thought he would enjoy retirement. But how could he without his wife?
From what he could understand, the house had to be sold. He was told that he would enjoy the home, or the community as it was called. The cemetery was nearby, where he would go to visit Catherine a few nights a week. He knew his memory was fading, but complained little. He played poker on Friday nights and watched war movies on Saturdays, but he could feel it slipping away. He had become frail and he sometimes forgot to eat. He had trouble with names, and at times even faces. His biggest fear was forgetting her.
Jack rested his head on the pillow before reaching to turn off his bedside lamp. He looked over at the picture on the night stand and wondered just who was the family in the frame. There was a young couple with two little girls happily smiling at the beach, along with other pictures of children and babies, but try as he might he couldn’t remember who they were. Giving up, he turned off the light and stared at the ceiling, thinking of how quickly the summer had come to an end. Tomorrow he and the guys would play one last time before summer was over.