Two children – a boy and a girl are born seven months apart. Their respective mothers were good friends and neighbors a few houses apart. The kids grew up through grade school together, racking each other up, ratting each other out in turns, as kids are wont to do. Forced together due to their parents, a friendship that was sometimes rebelled, sometimes rejoiced, slowly forged as times goes by. If they were not in each other’s company, the running joke throughout growing up was they were invariably asked “Aren’t you minus one?”
Daughter: Mama, how did Daddy propose?
Mother: I had started dating Robbie Matthews and when it looked like it might be getting serious it pissed your daddy right off. How dare I start to fall in love with someone else because he was taking too long? So few days before he is set off to war he shows up for dinner. And as we always went back and forth between his mama’s house and ours we thought nothing of it. He says almost nothing to me the whole meal, a dozen people in the house, it was normal – thought nothing of it. When he, your grandfather and your uncles go off as Mama, Sissy and I clean up – again thought nothing of it. A spell later he walks into the kitchen as I’m drying dishes and tosses something shiny at me. While I scramble to catch it he says “Listen you, so you know I’m heading out on Tuesday. I just done asked your daddy, so put this dang ring on ’cause you know I’m minus one without you and if I ain’t coming back to you, I ain’t coming back. I’m not having it.” He then turns on his heel and starts walking out the door.
Father: Please! She threw a spoon so hard at the back of my head I nearly tripped. The whole time yelling “And you better come back to me ’cause I’m not gonna be minus one either – you hear me you bastard? Come back to me – I’m not having it!” In front of her own mama nonetheless! So I picked up the spoon and brought it back to her, got down on one knee, put the ring on her finger, got my kiss and walked out.
He heard her.
It took a few decades, but that same boy and girl build, and live, a long life through a war, a marriage, a house, children, a move from rural to city life, more children and then grand children together. It wasn’t always easy as they tried and survived each vow, comfort – honor – richer – poorer – sickness – health. Yet other than the years he served the navy, they were rarely more than a week apart from each other.
Then one morning the boy woke up.
And the girl didn’t.
They had known each other since babies. Nine decades in this world together and for the first time in his life he walked on an earth without her in it.
Two mornings later he joined her.
I was within earshot when his youngest daughter rhetorically asked how he could pass in his sleep two days after his wife. I had the answer:
“He was minus one without her. He wasn’t having it.”
At the next to the last funeral this week, this was the story I told, more or less, before reading the official obituary.
It’s Friday – it’s Good Friday – let’s see what’s slicing for this holy weekend…