"That tickles!”, he laughed tiredly in the high pitch raspy tone he uses when he is being funny. I give his neck another kiss.
“It’s time to get up”, I hate to say the words ending our mini vacation. We have spent the weekend at a resort my best friend from childhood invited us to with her timeshare. It is 9:30 and we have to be on the road by 11:00. I look at my husband’s face to see if he is awake. After 29 years of marriage I still cannot tell if his eyes are open or not under his long eyelashes. His smile tells me he’s awake and I can’t help but feel warm when looking at him. When he is happy his face is jolly, the apples of his cheeks bulge, and even with eyes closed I know his blue eyes have a peace about him.
He leans his large body up his broad shoulders sinking with the exhale of his yawn. While wiping what he calls his ‘eye snots’ out of his eyes the bed creaks as he stands up and slips his always socked feet into his slippers. These have been my morning companions for almost 30 years. He kisses me good morning before concealing his hairy torso behind a t-shirt. Then as his custom to show his love to me when we stay in a hotel, he heads down to the continental breakfast to get food and coffee for us to snack on while pack our things. I put on my makeup while he is gone.
This may all seem boring, but I am a simple person and I find beauty in the consistency of our love. We have worked very hard to get where we are today. Happiness is a destination that we fiercely trekked through life to get to. We finally realized money wasn’t what was important, but time together. After 20 years in navy and 10 years after his retirement of unpredictable schedules, we finally settled on jobs that may have been less pay, but were more rewarding with time off that we have spent together. Now we take trips on his motorcycle frequently, and we have time to see our two children and our grandbabies. Now I am warm with happiness again, we have a new granddaughter, she will be 6 weeks old tomorrow. We will never regret being able to take the week off she was born. My husband, being the great man he is, drove the entire trip from Florida to Indiana the moment we heard my daughter was in labor. He loves his children but being a grandfather has opened a new beautiful side to him. I smile to myself as he walks in the door.
Once we are done packing He does his customary sweep through the room in military fashion to ensure we left nothing behind. He always says you can take the sailor out of the Navy, but you’ll never take the Navy out of the sailor. Suitcases in tow we merrily make our way to the car to head home from South Carolina. Not ready to say goodbye to the weekend just yet we make plans with my friend and her husband to stop for lunch in Savannah. Suitcases go in the trunk and we get in the car.
Not wanting to stop again other than for lunch we stop and get gas before ‘we hit the road’ as we like to say. While he pumps I run inside to get lottery tickets before my husband starts having withdrawals from his lottery addiction. There are worse things than spending a dollar or two a week. Wanting to try my hand at lady luck I get two $1 scratch off tickets myself.
“Whoohoo!”, I am incapable of holding back the obvious laughter that comes when you get nothing from a scratch off, “I won $1! It only cost me $2!”
“Yeah baby!”, he says in that high pitched funny voice he overuses, “Try not to spend that all in one place!”
Our laughter trails off and that warmness fills me again as we are jamming to the radio, happy even though the interstate has started to form traffic.
“There’s a lot of traffic heading into Savannah”, I can tell thoughts are rolling through his head as he is trying to figure out why at not quite noon on Sunday traffic is building up.
“Well it is now the vacation season”, I am not sure my answer satisfies his curiosity, but it doesn’t have to. We learn the reason as we see signs warning that we are approaching construction.
Suddenly, my body aches all over. I feel my body being placed on a hard surface. I really should tell them this is uncomfortable. As I feel my clothes being cut off it dawns on me. We must have been in a car accident. I can’t see anything because my glasses aren’t on my face.
“What about the driver?”
I guess this is the day I say goodbye to Kevin. Well, no it may not be. We were in a car accident so there were other drivers and they didn’t say which driver. Kevin is probably fine. With that hope, I fall back asleep.
I wake up and I hear sirens and I can tell I am in a vehicle, I must be in an ambulance. God my body hurts. I go back to sleep.
I wake up, a police officer and a nurse are at my side. My body feels a little better… I think.
“Mrs. Martin, you were in a car accident. You were rear-ended by a Semi. I have spoken with witnesses, and their stories line up. I have the drivers insurance, I have everything you need. You can call me anytime.” the officer hands my purse to someone else in the room. I realize its Lisa Marie my best friend.
“Have you heard anything about my husband?”, I hope that’s how the sentence comes out, breathing hurts, nonetheless speaking.
“We have not, I will go check.”, the nurse and the cop look at each other.
I feel groggy, they must have given me some type of drugs. I look over at Lisa and her husband, Lisa looks very upset.
“This if my fault I shouldn’t have invited you two this weekend.”, her face is riddled with guilt. She says some other things but my mind doesn’t keep ahold of her words. Until she says she’s calling my daughter and hands me the phone.
“Hey,” my daughters voice brings me a bit of light in this pain, she doesn’t seem distraught, does she know about the accident?
“Hey… bay..by..”, I breathe out.
“Mom!?”, her voice cracks, she must know. I hear the pain and desperation in her voice, but I also hear relief. “Mom I love you!”
“They… say we were…. in an accident.”
“Yes. I know I got an emergency call. Aunt Gayle is on her way to you.”
“I don’t know how… your father is. I asked but no one is telling me anything…”
“I haven’t heard yet either mom, we’re trying to find out”, she says quickly. I hear her whispering to someone in the background. “Mom is Lisa there with you?”
“Yes. We were supposed to meet them for lunch”
“She is in there right now?”
“Mom…”, I hear a very heavy breath on the other end, “Dad didn’t make it.”
“I thought so.”, the words process in my brain, and I understand them, but I don’t feel them.
“Mom, I am so sorry. I love you so much”, I can tell she is crying but fighting her tears to stay strong for me.
“I know honey, I love you too.” We sit on the phone in silence for a few minutes.
“Mom, I am going to let you go so Matthew can call and talk to you, we’ve been trying to get through for an hour.”
I don’t remember much of what I say with my son. I can’t believe he’s dead. I close my eyes. When I open them my sister and mother are there. I wave to them and close my eyes again. The game of opening eyes and waving continues for an amount of time I am not aware is passing.
I wake again. God it hurts to breathe. My mother and my sister are sitting in my room. They say their necessary condolences.
“I can’t believe he is gone.” I can’t believe he is gone “I never got to say goodbye”, I never got to say goodbye. "Why did I survive?"