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To most passerby's, he was a typical elderly man and to put it mildly, walking at his own selfish gradual pace since they assumed he had nowhere to be at a certain time. But to him taking one precise step after the other was a result of the arthritis and now, the onset of osteoporosis which came with his aging body. Though the route was the same on this smooth concrete path between the orange and red trees behind the yellowing bushes, under the cloudy skies with the brisk temperature, along with heavy mist signaling the onset of fall, the debate of purchasing a cane or a walker once again entered his mind.  Although he would not have to purchase one as he could in all likelihood receive a donated one not just because of his low income and his deteriorating body, but also his vision was also fading due to cataracts. He sighed knowing it would be another sign to acknowledge the time in his earth-bound body was limited.

As he did every Saturday or was it Sunday, he contemplated, or maybe even Friday? No matter, answering his own question, it was my weekly visit to my beloved's home. He enjoyed this journey although it was the only place he could venture not only alone but also, it was within walking distance and why he chose to live in this particular senior home. He scoffed at the notion of his limited choices to make. Every other place he looked at, he either had to use either never on time shuttle, be accompanied by what the staff called a caregiver, he called a babysitter or, the costs did not justify the location nor services offered. Yes, that's what I look for, he laughed, an opportunity to play tennis.

Another few steps and he paused to absorb his surroundings. The flowers or maybe even weeds for he could not tell the difference anymore, were much brighter, specifically the yellow and green colors were popping like a neon sign through the mist. He could hear the birds chirping both near and far off and he was grateful he did not need hearing aids which was also typical of his age. The birds may have sensed his upturn in emotion for they also seemed cheerier. Pessimism creeped into his mind as something was different, but he could not discern what. 

He continued on again, staying as close to the edge of the concrete where weeds crept through the cracks to meet the grass. On many mornings, it was a jogger or a younger couple taking a stroll similar to what he used to do with his love. Some greeted him with a hello or a smile, others acknowledged his presence by giving him ample space, while more and more continued on as if he did not exist for, they were too caught up in this increasingly social media driven world. Yet today, not a single living soul and though he could hear the birds, he could not see them or even spot an insect. It was unusual even if the weather was dreary, it was brisk and not cold, and he thought most people loved exercising in this temperature. Maybe it was Monday after all, and I was off to a late start where everyone is now at work.

Ten more feet and he entered the cemetery and he knew another ten minutes at his walking speed, he would be able to speak to his love despite knowing she could hear from anywhere, he felt more comfortable speaking to her in person. He had no flowers this time for his limited mobility and also his limited income whereby the decision was made for him he could only place so many a month. Three falls and a sharp worded scolding from several nurses reaffirmed the decision. He knew they cared but berating him like a child still hurt. The words stung though not as much as the day they took his keys and driver's license. His freedom was taken and held hostage by his body and soon his mind.   

At last and with a bit of shortness in his breath, he arrived at her designated spot next to the empty plot reserved for him. He closed his eyes and tilted his head toward the heavens and even though the sun was not shining, he knew his god and her were listening. The prayer was for her everlasting peace and not to fret about him as so often she did. Finished he shuffled back to the ornate stone bench placed by the cemetery at no one's request but for design and to enhance the feeling of serenity, where one could sit and talk. But as soon as he was firmly in place, he knew something was definitely different.

It may have been a gravesite and a place to be somber, but it was more serene than usual. Maybe it was the mist which turned into a light fog. He also felt warmer and now he noticed his arthritis did not act up as it did on cold and humid mornings like this. He also felt more at peace and contemplated his life as a man sat next to him in the open space.

He looked at the man as he breathed through his mouth and forced a smile but the other looked straight ahead. He could not determine his age though no doubt he was younger and by his guesstimate, at least twenty years but no younger than thirty and no older than fifty. His eyes were big and brown as was the hair yet, his eyebrows were bushy and gray. The man was also impeccably dressed and could tell all of his clothing were high-end designer purchases from those luxurious shops on the street locals nicknamed the Rodeo Drive of Beverly Hills.

"Morning." The other spoke with a slight rasp in his voice. He cleared his throat as if that was not his normal voice and motioned toward his true love's grave marker. "Your wife?" The way he spoke this was indeed his true voice.

He could only nod. This was the first time since her funeral he had the opportunity to talk to another physical being. "Is your love here also?"

The man only smiled and continued looking ahead. "They are."

"I've never seen anyone else here before." He shrugged and continued. "Guess I came at the wrong time." 

"Today must be your lucky day." The man paused as if he was contemplating what to say next. "How long have you been together?" He was confused because the man asked as if they were still together, but he noticed the look and explained. "You look like you have not spoken about her in quite a length of time. Is that possible since she passed away in 2012?"

"I still hang on to my memories" he said as he looked at his shoes to ensure the two laces were still tied in a neat bow tie. "When I do speak of her, some just nod."

"As in out of being polite? Or they are listening to what your heart says?"

"Oh, I still have faith in humanity, and they can hear." He joined in smiling with the other. "Though, it feels my story is no different than the ones they have heard before or, I have told it before, and I have simply forgotten."

"So then tell me the day you met, how you felt, and would you change anything if you were to meet again?"

He frowned at such an odd question, but he relented to play the game. After it all it was just the two of them on a dreary day and it was much needed human interaction. "I'd be cleaned up for when I first met her, I was working in a factory and decided on a whim to stop in the bar to have a drink. After all, it was a Friday day… day much like today. And lo behold, she was the sunshine as soon as I entered, a waitress picking up a shift."

The man scanned him up and down. "Am I correct if you were cleaned up, you would be dressed up to be quite similar to how you look in this moment as if you had an important appointment that could change your life?"

"I guess you're right." He chuckled. "I would have a better shave but that too is difficult, and I would not be wearing an adult diaper by choice. "But I must ask, why the question?"

"If you do it differently. " The man retorted and ignored the question. He was not surprised that it so often happens to him nowadays. "The actual question is are you ready?"

"Ready for what? Or are you questioning death? My body has been ready for years." He snickered.

Again, the man answered with another question. "You have been making this visit on a regular basis for years, correct? Have you not noticed any changes? The weather? How people acknowledged your presence but now pass by as if you do not exist?" 

He tried to diffuse the escalating tension by speaking softly and avoiding eye contact. "If I remember correctly, it has been many weeks."

"Where are you?" The man was more irritable than before.

"I am here at this cemetery visiting my wife's final resting place. Please do not speak to me like an imbecile. My memory is not as sharp, but do you not see? Are you not here with me?" He asked in pleading for mercy.

"I am not in the present because you are here with me."

He shook his head. "Either I am crazy, or you are."

"When was the last time you remember going to bed? How about walking up, dressing and leaving your room?"

"I do not." His shoulders slumped for once again his brain had failed him. "Again, I have dementia, but I do know I am here in this gravesite." 

"In." The man paused and nodded. "Is the operative word and are you sure?" The man smiled. "Or are you here, or where you are supposed to be?" The man rose, put his hands in his pockets and smiled. "No matter the place nor the time, you find true happiness where you want to be." He turned and walked off and soon was enveloped by the fog.

The old man looked to the heavens and closed his eyes. "I'm sorry my love you witnessed such an awkward exchange."

"But I'm glad I was there for you." A familiar voice whispered in his ear.

He turned and there before him with the sun creating an aura around her was his beloved. Dressed in a flower-patterned dress, her light brown also aglow from the sunshine and deep blue eyes that created a smile every time he looked at her, she was beautiful as the day he first laid eyes upon her. He smiled and this time he was well-dressed for the occasion. 

The man was right as he looked to the new gravestone marker that bore his name dated two months ago. He was right where he was supposed to be albeit a little late for his fateful appointment.


Don Santiago has  been published in small market magazines. He has also written an inspirational novel, and is currently working on a script and a play. His portfolio can be found at


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