It's Saturday morning, and she knows it is for sure because last night while her mother was getting her ready for bed she kept asking a whole lot of times until Mommy stopped reading the story and looked up at the ceiling so far that her eyes disappeared inside her head. Then she squinched her mouth real tight and said one-word-at-a-time, "Oh, yessss. Tomorrow ... is ... Saturday."
Saturday. The only day she wakes up all by herself and doesn't have to hurry up and get dressed, because there's nowhere she has to go. No school. No church. And guess what? Daddy doesn't go to work, and she gets to have him all to herself because Mommy always stays in bed till almost lunch time on Saturdays.
Pretty soon the best smell will float up the stairs, and she'll tiptoe down to the kitchen and Daddy will be sitting at the table drinking coffee and reading a book. Quieter than a mouse, she'll sneak up behind him, cover his eyes and say, "Guess whoooo?" and he'll make a whole lot of wrong guesses before he gives up and acts so surprised that it's her. Then they'll sit together for the rest of the morning drinking coffee and eating donuts, reading Winnie the Pooh, telling knock-knock jokes, and talking about all kinds of stuff.
"So, would you like to go for coffee or something?"
"Or something?" she answers flirtatiously, trying her best to sound sultry and sexy like Cher Bono, but sounding instead like Mama Smurf.
"That would be ... uh ... good too," he replies with a slow motion wink and the sexiest smile she's ever seen in her life. They both laugh and then stare at each other for a thousand years before he continues, "Listen, there's a poetry reading tonight at the Quad. Want to go? The coffee's outstanding."
"And the poetry?" she asks, opting for her own voice this time.
By the time the poetry reading is over she knows he's a vegetarian who can't stand ketchup on anything ever, he isn't quite so shy once he's got a half kilo of caffeine under his belt, and he has an amazing sense of humor. At one point she laughs so hard her coffee spurts out her nose, but after his affable response to her Mama Smurf impersonation, she knows it's no big deal. She doesn't have to try to impress this guy at all. She can just be herself.
She also knows he's an English major and exceptionally talented poet who digs the Moody Blues, weeps every time he hears Elton John's Your Song, and never has nor never will do any kind of sports other than ping pong and maybe some volleyball at the beach. And she knows absolutely without a doubt for sure that this is the guy she wants in her bed drinking coffee, laughing, and reciting poetry to her till almost lunch time on lazy Saturday mornings for the rest of her life.
No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get any more information out of her daughter.
"Let's meet for coffee Saturday morning, okay, Mom? Listen, don't worry. It's good news. I just don't want to tell you over the phone. It's too good!"
It took her nearly all week to figure it out but once she did, she realized it couldn't be more obvious. They've been dropping hints ever since her son-in-law became Chief Administrator of the place. What was it? Sunny Acres? Something-Meadows? Whatever. A "happenin' retirement community for seniors" is how he describes it. Oh, please.
"We've got an apartment with your name on it, Mom!" They keep joking. Not funny. Not one bit funny. They'll be living in it themselves before I ever will, she thought, as she grabbed her car keys to go meet her daughter. No way would she ever even consider leaving her home. Not a chance. It was all she had left of Michael and their years together. Oh, such wonderful years! His laughter still alive in every room, his books, their garden, the ocean. Coffee on the desk at sunrise, long walks on the beach. Oh, no. Absolutely not.
"So, tell me, what exactly is this BIG surprise?" she asks in a voice that would make her assertiveness training instructor proud.
Her daughter smiles, takes a deep breath and says, "Are you sure you're ready?"
"Ready as I'll ever be," she answers, bracing herself.
"Okay. Here goes ... STAN AND I ARE GOING TO EUROPE!!"
That's it? That's the surprise? They're NOT packing her off to a retirement community? She sits motionless, staring straight ahead.
"Mom? Are you okay, Mom?" her daughter asks nervously.
"I'm ..." she stammers. "Oh, I'm fine. Oh, how wonderful! I ... I couldn't be happier for you. When? For how long?"
"I'll tell you all the details in a minute," her daughter answered, "But first I'd really like to ask a favor. Um ... do you think maybe you could keep the dog for us?"
It's Saturday morning, and she knows it is for sure because there's nothing on TV but cartoons, and the groundskeeper isn't out there mowing the lawn or tending the roses. What's his name? George? Greg? Nice young man. Loves her lemon bars.
She didn't sleep well last night, but it doesn't matter. Today's going to be a good day anyway. Her granddaughter Jenny Rebecca, or is it Emily? Whichever. One of them will be here pretty soon to take her out to lunch. Beautiful girls they are. One named after a poet and one after a song.
"You're going to love the café, Grandma," she told her when she called last night to remind her what time to be ready. "It's a new little place near the boardwalk, right around the corner from that little antique shop. Maybe we can even take a walk on the beach."
It was such a gorgeous morning. Maybe she would be able to walk for a bit. Oh, how she loved walking at the beach. How hard it was to give up the house. She missed it so. But living in Sunshine Meadows wasn't nearly so bad as she thought. Beautiful gardens. Lovely people. Lots of new friends. The food was quite good. She really didn't like to cook that much anymore. And she certainly was a lot safer. Not a chance she'd be on the floor for more than five minutes before someone would be here to help her if she fell again. Lots of folks around all the time. And her granddaughters make sure she gets to see the ocean at least twice a month. Wonderful girls.
The books are all ready to go. She put them in one of those newfangled wrapping paper bags and set it by the door so she wouldn't forget. Emily? Jenny? Whichever one is coming today asked to borrow them. She's doing a poetry reading at her college next week and wants to include a few of Michael's poems. She's such a gifted poet. Her grandfather would be so proud.