Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Think (09/02/10)
TITLE: As Long As We Both Shall Live
By Marlene Bonney
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
My husband, Jack, and I joined the other tourists, continuing our hike up the mountain, and I wondered what brought the others here. Today marked our 40th wedding anniversary, which we had decided to celebrate in style. Granted, my idea of style (an intimate dinner for two in an exclusive restaurant complete with live music and attentive waiter) did not coincide with this latest spouse-appointed adventure. However, in a weaker moment, I had agreed to it. Now, my legs protesting, we were trailing behind the younger climbers. Jack, ever patient and solicitous, encouraged me as we slowly progressed.
“Think of the prize at the top,” he rallied.
“I’m trying not to,” I mumbled under my breath.
“What was that, dear?” Jack’s bad ear faced me.
“I said, it’s frying hot, too!” loudly.
We forged ahead (in spite of the heat) and eventually reached our destination that felt like 10,000 feet above sea level. Jack’s eyes gleamed with anticipation while mine watered in fear as we looked down from on high.
“Honey, maybe I could just watch?”
“Now, Jessie, remember this is an exercise in trusting me. Don’t look down, and DON’T think about it.”
The guides hooked us up like trussed-up turkeys in thingamajig straps, cables and pulleys. Jack took the first plunge, ziplining into space with hollers of adrenalin-rushed glee.
Unfortunately, I then made a huge mistake. I looked down. Below the tiny platform where I stood stretched miles of nothingness, floored by miniature trees and valleys and buildings reminiscent of my granddaughter’s dollhouse village. Echoing across this vast expanse, my husband’s thready voice bounced over from the opposite platform where he had landed.
“Jes, DON’T THINK ABOUT IT—JUST GO!”
As I approached the necessary jump, my mind flashed back to past occasions, the scene below me replaced by a gigantic outdoor theatre screen . . .
In the first scene, I am up to my ears in wedding preparations; invitations, postage stamps, envelopes and lists cluttering every available surface in my tiny apartment. I take in the overwhelming mounds surrounding me, Groom Jack at my side, four weeks before our marriage ceremony--and plop down in the middle of the floor, bursting into tears. In between sniffles, gulps and hiccups, I explain my fears.
“Ah, sweetheart, just take one 'tree' at a time,” holding up the first completed envelope, “don’t look at the whole 'forest' at once. Just stop thinking about it so much and start. Here, I’ll help.”
In the next scene, we are hospital-bound, my labor pains threateningly close apart, my oh-so-pregnant body protesting each road bump . . . The next few hours flash by to Papa Jack’s coaching command still imprinted in my memory:
“Don’t think about the pain, honey. Just concentrate on the wall hanging and forget the rest.”
The third time he says it, I deliberately close my eyes, mentally slap his smiling face, and scream, LOUDLY:
“I’ll think about whatever I want to, than-you-very-much!”
He didn’t repeat it again.
This scene races by past three more deliveries in as many years, and we are taking a much-needed vacation, a second honeymoon of sorts. My parents had come several hundred miles to baby-sit. This would be my first time away from them overnight, but I promise Jack not to fret about them as our plane rises up into the sky. An hour into the flight, Jack stops, mid-sentence, and accuses,
“You’re thinking about them, aren’t you? You’ve got those little creases between your eyebrows.”
Caught in the act, I try harder to rearrange my thoughts into honeymoon mode. Two days later, my mother calls, asking if the kids had been exposed to chicken pox . . .
“Hey, lady, other people are waiting, you know—just take off, will ya?!”
My memories faded away in the face of the present and I closed my eyes and dove forward, chanting,
“ ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Thou wilt be with me’(*). . .”
Three hours later, we are seated at the ritziest five-star restaurant in the area, dressed in newly-purchased ritzy wardrobes, ordering an equally ritzy and expensive five-course meal.
“Wow, will you just look at these prices,” Jack groans.
“Just don’t think about it, honey. Concentrate on staying alive long enough to celebrate our 50th,” pasting on my ritziest smile.
*The Holy Bible, Psalm 23
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