Max and Rosie Pt. 2
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When they entered the kitchen, Max touched Rosie’s shoulder then bent over and kissed her forehead. She opened her eyes and look up at him. “Tomorrow is our thirty-seventh anniversary, dear.” Max sat down on the chair next to her wheelchair and took her hand. “That’s nice,” Rosie answered. “I think I should take a nap.” Max glanced up at Robin and sighed at Rosie’s response. Robin stood behind Rosie then turned the wheelchair around. “I’ll be right back. How about making a pot of coffee?” While the water was boiling in the teakettle, Max put four scoops of coffee into the French Press then walked over and looked at all of the photos on the refrigerator door—snapshots of Leah when she was eight or nine sitting on his knee while he had his arm around Rosie. He moved closer to look at Rosie’s face, her big smile, the wire-rimmed glasses she started wearing instead of the horn-rimmed ones she wore in college. He knew the picture was taken when they were in their forties and her curly brown hair was long. She was wearing her old plaid flannel shirt, tan Bermuda shorts and the yellow bandana she wore over her hair when she gardened. The picture had been taken by their neighbor, Gordon, who often stopped by to kibitz with Max, but who he suspected had a secret crush on Rosie. He looked at a photo of Rosie wearing a one-piece bathing suit and posing with her hand on her hips like she was in a beauty contest. He thought about the way they loved going to Long Beach Island for two weeks every summer and how she’d made a delicious dinner with the bluefish he caught that day. The teakettle whistled and Max poured the steaming water into the glass pot just as Robin came back into the kitchen and reached for two mugs from the shelf over the counter. Her arm brushed his and the touch made him realize how he desired her and wished he didn’t. Between feeling the memories the photos awoke and Robin’s presence next to him and the thought of the woman he had loved for thirty-seven years slowly dying before his eyes, he was being yanked back and forth between the past and the present like in a game of tug of war. Why am I being faithful? Would it be cheating if she’s no longer able to be my wife?This is nuts? I love Rosie but I love Robin too. I don’t know what to do. “She’s asleep,” Robin said and poured the coffee into their mugs. When they sat at the table, Max looked out at the bird feeder and then at the daffodils just beginning to bloom. They sat quietly and sipped their coffee in the late afternoon sunlight coming through the window. Max glanced up at the clock and noticed it was ten after four. “This is when we used to have tea and toast with raspberry jam.” Robin looked up at the clock and at Max. “That was then and this is now. Be in the present. I know how hard this is, but it’s important to try to accept what is happening and make it as good as possible.” Max smiled and nodded. “I’ve been lonely. I don’t know what I would have done if you weren’t here.” “Well, I’m here and have been for over a year.” “I know.” “Funny how things happen. Sometimes I think it’s destiny, Erenköy escort bayan but then I think things like this just happen.” She took a sip of coffee. “There’s no plan. No destiny.” Max nodded. “Who could have known that Rosie would get Alzheimer’s and I would need someone to take care of her and you would show up?” “Life happens.” “Right, life happens…sometimes it’s horrible and sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s both. You never know.” Max shrugged his shoulders. Robin picked up her mug and lifted it to Max as if offering a toast and he picked up his and tapped them together. “To luck,” Robin said. “I’ll drink to that.” Max took a sip and lowered his mug to the table then sat back in his chair. He looked at Robin then sighed. “Robin, I have to confess something.” “What?” “This is hard for me to say.” “What? Tell me.” “I’m very fond of you.” He wanted to say more but couldn’t He knew he was falling in love with her and wanted to embrace her, kiss her, feel her body responding to his desire, but that was out of the question. How can I? Why can’t I? I don’t know what to do. Robin smiled and looked down into her coffee. She gripped her mug with both hands then lifted it to her lips and sipped. “I’m fond of you too. You’re pretty amazing. You really are.” Max wanted to take Robin’s hand and hold it but didn’t. Robin finished her coffee, stood up and went to the back door. Max knew she probably wanted to change the topic and shift the conversation. He did, too. “I would like to plant some vegetables out there…a small garden. What do you think?” “Really. That’s interesting.” “We had a big garden at Rainbow’s End. My mom and dad grew all of our food and my sister Lark and I helped. Everyone there gardened and we shared the fruit from the orchard.” “Sounds beautiful.” “I’ve missed gardening. I wonder if I’ll ever go back there. All the houses are off the grid and everyone tries to live as self-sufficiently as possible. Our parents are all around your age, getting older and I know they would like us to keep it going.” Max got up and stood next to Robin. He looked out at the backyard and saw the two peach trees Rosie and he had planted fifteen years earlier. The pink blossoms would be bursting to life soon and he remembered how the sight thrilled Rosie. He remembered filling up baskets with peaches and bringing them into the house then proudly looking at them sitting on the counter. “How many people lived at Rainbow’s End?” he asked, shaking away that memory. “I don’t know how many are there now, but, when I was growing up, there were three other families and we each had an acre of land and shared the orchard and common land and worked together on projects. We had a barn for the goats, but we all had a flock of chickens. My goat’s name was Ruby. Molly still lives there with her family in the house she grew up in. Her parents, John and Mildred, started it when they gave this woman, Jenny an acre. She was their apprentice and she married Michael. They have a son, Tollie, who went to Harvard. I don’t know Escort içerenköy what he’s doing now.” While Robin spoke, Max remembered the small vegetable garden Rosie had tended and the peach preserves she made. He remembered how proud she was of the tomatoes and peppers she grew and how she would say, “Everything in this salad came from the garden.” He saw the small area where she’d had the garden. It was now covered with weeds and the wire fence she made to keep the deer out was a shambles. “Rosie had a garden out there. I bet we could get it back in shape.” “Great. I didn’t know she had a garden.” “How could you? She doesn’t remember it, and, until I looked out there, I didn’t remember.” Max closed his eyes and again tears swelled in him as he pictured Rosie on her knees with that yellow bandana and how much she loved her garden. He sighed and noticed Robin look up at him and smile when he wiped away the tears. Why is she looking at me like that? “So, do you think you’ll ever go back to Rainbow’s End?” Max asked, snapping out of his reverie. “I hope so. I want to, but right now I’m here taking care of Rosie…who knows what I’ll do when I’m no longer her nurse.” Max didn’t say anything, but suddenly the thought of Robin not living in his house stunned him. She’ll be gone when Rosie dies. “It will feel strange when you’re not here and the house will be empty except for me.” “You’ll be fine. I’m sure.” Robin smiled at him. “You’ll be able to finish that novel you’ve been writing.” “I guess. We’ll see.” “Well, tomorrow is your anniversary and in a few days we will resurrect Rosie’s garden. What do you think?” Max took another deep sigh and looked out the backyard, then at Robin. “I could use the exercise. I like the idea.” While standing there, they heard a car park in the driveway and a door slam, then saw Leah carrying flowers. When she came into the kitchen, she kissed her father on the cheek. “These are for your anniversary, Dad. They’re snapdragons. Mom’s favorite.” “Thank you, but Mom won’t know what they are.” “I know, but I wanted to buy them for her and you. I have to run. Ron and I are going to a movie, and I’m already behind schedule. I’ll call tomorrow.” At dinner that night, Robin fed Rosie the chicken soup she’d made. Max sat across from them, watching how Robin held the spoon in front of Rosie’s mouth as if she was feeding a child. “Open wide, this is good for you.” He admired Robin’s patience, how she smiled every time Rosie sipped and swallowed the soup. When she finished, she wiped Rosie’s mouth with a napkin, and then went to the refrigerator and took out the vanilla ice cream and served it to her in the same green bowl she used every night. Max loved how Rosie licked her lips and closed her eyes as she savored the taste of the ice cream and the look of pleasure on her face sent a warm sensation through him. “She really loves that ice cream,” Max said. “Let me feed it to her.” Max took Robin’s seat and lifted the ice cream to Rosie’s lips. “You like this ice cream, don’t you, dear? Remember Tuzla escort when we always went to Russell’s Ice Cream Parlor on Ridge Avenue after a movie?” He knew she had no idea what he was saying but hoped somehow his words registered. He also knew he was holding on to the tattered remnants of their life. He turned to Robin sitting next to him. “That was a ritual—going for ice cream after the movies.” “Nice,” Robin said, nodding and smiling. After Rosie went to bed and the kitchen was cleaned up, Robin and Max sat in the living room. He read the latest issue of the New Yorker and Robin made a list of the vegetables they would grow and drew a little plan. She read him the list and Max nodded then said he would get the tools from the garage and prune the peach tree. At breakfast the next morning, he saw that Robin had dressed Rosie in a white blouse with ruffles and a flowery long pink and blue skirt, one that she hadn’t worn in many years. She’d put lipstick on her and combed her hair so that it was smooth. “Happy Anniversary,” Max said, kissing Rosie’s forehead and cheek. He lifted the vase of flowers. “Leah brought these here yesterday. They’re snapdragons. Aren’t they pretty? Leah knows how much you love snapdragons.” Rosie looked at the flowers and at Max and then looked down at the skirt she was wearing. “We’ve been married for thirty-seven years.” He looked at her hoping for some sign that she understood what he was saying. He moved the flowers closer to her nose. “Smell the flowers. Don’t they smell good?” She continued looking at the flowers then up at Max and Robin watching her. “Happy anniversary,” Robin said. “Would you like some oatmeal for breakfast?” “Oatmeal?” Rosie repeated. “I’m going to make oatmeal for you.” Max poured her a mug of coffee and brought it to her. He put in a spoonful of honey and stirred it, then held it to her lips for her to sip. Just then the phone rang and Max picked it up. “Happy anniversary. Let me talk to Mom.” “It’s Leah,” Max said, handing the phone to Rosie, who held it to her ear, listened, then handed it back to Max. “I just wanted to wish you and Mom a happy anniversary. Give her a kiss for me.” “I will. Thank you for the flowers.” Max looked down at Rosie sitting next to him in the wheel chair and could see she had no idea what was going on, but she stared at the flowers and had a slight smile on her lips. When he hung up, he leaned over and kissed Rosie. “That’s a kiss from Leah.” Rosie’s smile broadened. It was the first time she had smiled like that in a long time. He looked up at Robin. “She smiled.” “I saw. That’s nice…sweet.” She poured the oatmeal into a bowl, brought it to the table and fed Rosie. Two days later, Max pruned the peach trees and Robin started turning over the soil in the garden, digging up the weeds and placing them in an old compost pile she found in the corner of the yard. “We’ll start composting the garbage.” Each day, while Rosie slept, Robin and Max worked in the garden and it felt good to be outside and feel the warm sun. Max had fixed the wire fence and mowed the grass. Within a few weeks, the lettuce and spinach came up and they transplanted the tomatoes and pepper plants they bought at Chapman’s Garden Center. As the weeks became months, Rosie continued to fade away, hardly eating, sleeping most of the day, going to the bathroom in the potty on her bed.
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