Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Twilight Years of Life (07/02/09)
TITLE: I Will Not Go Quietly
By Matt Zink
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I have heard the cliché a thousand times. Now I am seventy-four and it means something.
Frank and Margaret bought a bungalow and retired on the coast. Every morning, they get up with the sun and walk the beach in search of shells. Every morning, the waves wash their footprints into the sea. Frank cooks breakfast, and Margaret lunch and they always go out for dinner. In between, they talk, paint, write and admire their wonderful collection of shells.
James retired after his wife passed. Three years later, he decided to sell everything and move into a retirement home. His children visited every week for a while, then once a month. Last time I spoke with him, he had not seen them in six months. He did buy a Hoveround®, said he’d walked enough in his lifetime and Medicare covered the cost. Now he putters along the trails on the facility grounds. He enjoys the water fountain in the garden and recalls the good old days with his wife.
William doesn’t believe in retirement. We agree on that much. He is my oldest friend. He works every day as if he were twenty-five. Still paying his dues, he says, the young generation doesn’t respect the old. His wife Susan waits at home for him, knitting and reading, then prepares dinner as she has for the past forty-eight years. He comes home, thanks her for the meal and they talk into the evening. He golfs every weekend. I imagine that William just won’t come home one day, but dinner will be ready and Susan will converse with his memory.
As I look out the door of the plane, tethered to my jumping partner, all of these things flash through my mind. The wind presses the goggles tight against my face. Words are shouted and disappear into the rumble of the engine and the rush of the air. We move closer to the threshold. I give the thumbs up, so does my partner. I’m old, not stupid, and now jump tandem. We leap into the clouds.
The Amazon basin opens up below us. Fingers of the great river stretch for a thousand miles. I spot the clearing and the blue smoke. My missionary son, his wife and kids, and the tribe all point and wave at us as we descend through the void.
My son said I was crazy to join him here, no place for an old man. Why didn’t I just go work with William? And I told him.
I have twenty years to add to my life. I will not have my footsteps washed into the sea. I am not a keeper of seashells or a watcher of fountains. There is no top rung on the corporate ladder, and my handicap is my golf game.
I will not go quietly.
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