Delicate daisies poked their silky-smooth heads through the cracks in the familiar cement walk way. Sunlight streamed through the overhanging pine tree branches, casting an array of spring colors along the path. John smiled as he looked at his beautiful bride. Her grey hair framed her soft, pink cheeks. She was wearing a simple blue dress with a pearl necklace. He bought her that outfit for their 40th wedding anniversary. She looked radiant.
He took her hand in his and led her down the river side trail.
“Mary, every time we come down here I feel like we’re eighteen again. It all started here-on this path, on that evening. Quite a few firsts happened that day. It was the first time any girl had convinced me that walking could be an enjoyable pastime. My, well, our first kiss and the first time I proposed after knowing someone for only two hours.”
Mary chuckled as she recalled the day’s events.
“You can imagine my schoolmates surprise when I came to school the following day with a ring made from twigs and grass saying that John Alexander proposed to me. I can still remember the look on Sue’s face. She was the one who tried to convince me that you never took a girl out twice.”
John sported a look of mock surprise as Mary took a seat on their favorite bench.
“Now you know the only reason why I never took a girl out twice was because they were all the same. You were different. “
John sat down beside Mary and draped his arm over her shoulders. “Are you cold hon?”
“No. I’m fine.”
John dug into his shoulder bag. His face grew pale. He withdrew his hand from the bag empty handed. A look of defeat resonated within his eyes.
“Don’t even try to fool me John. I’ve known you for over fifty years and you’ve been pulling the same jokes since the day we first met. Whatever you’re looking for is in the bag.” Mary chuckled as John’s face gave way to a grin and pulled out his red jack knife.
“Nothing gets by you.” John turned to face the wooden bench and began carving away, unmasking a forgotten inscription.
“John A. + Mary A. 4-ever.”
John had first carved the words on the day of their 25th wedding anniversary. They had come back to this place-the spot where everything had begun.
As they shared another sacred kiss, they were amazed at how the tough times, the fights, the bitterness, the hard times, melted into the background as they held one another. Nothing else mattered that night.
“There, finished.” John brushed away the splinters of wood hanging around the newly reconstructed carving.
“Now what would the kids say if they saw you in this heinous act of vandalism?” Mary’s playful tone sent a smile to John’s lips.
“I think they would say…”
“Dad, why now?” Ashley muttered as she finally stopped to catch her breath, while watching her father sitting alone at his favorite park bench. It must be a bad day.
Ashley inched her way forward, not wanting to alarm her father. Dad, for one day, I wish I could see what you see.
“Excuse me?” A voice behind Ashley startled her. “I’m sorry if I scared you, but do you know that man? He’s been sitting on the bench for some time and…well…is there something wrong with his eyes? He seems to see something that isn’t…” The young man brushed a stray hair from his forehead.
Ashley looked back at the man she had loved more than any other. “No. His vision is fine.”
“I understand.” An awkward pause filled the air.
No one knew how to act when they found out about her father. Mental illness was taboo for most people.
“I better get going.” The young man quickly walked down the path, not looking over his shoulder.
Ashley looked back towards her father. “It’s his mind’s eyes that aren’t seeing things clearly.” She whispered to herself.
Ashley walked over to the bench. Will he remember me today God?
John turned his head to see the young woman who was approaching his bench. He smiled.
“Hello young lady. I don’t want to sound intrusive, but you look so much like my wife.”
Ashley looked at her dad. A sad smile crept upon her lips. His vision was fine
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