A Morning Ritual

She watched him every morning, very closely, waiting for something.  He would sit slumped in his seat at the table.  Every morning it was the same, this morning like all the rest recently.

“Would you like eggs?”

“Uh huh.”

“Scrambled?”

“Uh huh.”

She whipped up two eggs and cooked them on medium low heat.  This was her morning routine.  Not that lunch or dinner were much different.  He said long ago that he wanted to die at home.  She had tried her best to honor that wish.

She placed the eggs before him, then sat down opposite him, watched him move his fork through the eggs.  Every once in a while he’d manage to lift the fork high enough to get some in his mouth, chew slowly, swallow.  She could see his Adam’s apple bob up and down.

“Drink some of the juice, Herb, or the water.”

He stopped trying to eat his eggs, lay back in his chair, looked up at her and said, “I’m tired.”

She looked at him, holding back tears, said, “I know, Herb.  I know, honey.”

He returned his attention to his eggs.  She watched him push them around the plate.  Eat some.  She went to his side and rubbed his shoulder.  “Herb, honey, can I help you?”

She reached slowly for the fork, but she already knew what would happen.

“No,” he said.  “No.”

She withdrew her hand.

“Herb, I don’t know what to do anymore.  You need to eat more, honey.  You have to eat.”

She knelt by his side and looked into his cloudy eyes.  Where did everything go?   Images of their wedding day ran through her mind.

The phone rang.  She went out into the living room to answer it.  It was her daughter.  They talked about Herb, what the next step should be.  Perhaps it finally was time to put him in a care facility of some kind.  Yes, they’d tried to honor his wish, but yes, it was the right time now.

She hung up.  Placing her husband in a nursing home.  How does this happen to people?  She remembered the first time they’d met.

“Herb,” she said, returning to the kitchen.  She laid her hand on his shoulder, “that was Angie, honey.  She sends you all her love from California,” she said in as upbeat a manner as she could muster.

“Herb?”

She knelt beside him.

“Herb?”

She inhaled sharply, let out a small cry.  The first thing that ran through her mind was that there would be no need to scramble eggs the next morning.  She wrapped her arms around her husband and wept, ashamed of herself.

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