Mom was only fifteen when she met my dad – to be more specific, when she first saw him. He was doubled over gasping for air, lying in the street when she saw a crowd huddled over something. She walked over to see what the fuss was about and saw what she described as the handsomest boy she'd ever seen. Dad's hair was dark-blond, and his eyes were milk chocolate brown. Her heart melted as she watched him struggle to catch his breath. He had been playing hockey with his friends and his stick hit a slightly raised manhole cover, got stuck, and as he tried to skate by, jammed him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him causing him to curl into a ball and lie on the ground. Mom cried out, “Don't let him lie in the street. He'll get hit by a car. Carry him to the sidewalk.” Dad's friends first looked at mom like she'd lost her mind but then realized she made her point. The carried dad the few feet to safety. She wouldn't leave his side as his breath began to normalize. Mom held his hand and talked almost non-stop to help him relax. It worked. His breath steadied and soon, he asked, “What's your name and where do you live?” Mom smiled. “Mary and actually, just around the corner.” Dad walked her home and asked if she'd like to hang out with him and his friends later that night. “We're only going to the candy store for some soda; it's nothing special.” To mom, it was more than special. He didn't have to ask her twice. As I said, mom was 15. Dad was 14 but neither cared. They were inseparable as the years passed. Dad eventually joined the Navy and when home on leave, married mom. To say they were happy is a mild statement. Dad was mom's world and dad idolized mom. Their love was obvious to anyone who saw them look at each other. One day, tragedy struck. A few days before dad's 65th birthday, he had a stroke which paralyzed his left side. With therapy, he gained the use of his legs, but his left arm remained useless. That didn't stop them from enjoying their lives together. With a modified steering wheel, he was once again able to drive and took mom on many vacations which included Montauk NY, Virginia Beach VA, and Baltimore MD. When dad turned 71, he stumbled and fell. It was determined that he experienced a TIA – mini stroke. While dad lay in the hospital, an astute nurse noticed something with dad that wasn't quite right. She prompted the doctor to order a few tests. The diagnosis was stage 4 colon cancer. The doctor told mom that dad had about 8 months to live. We were horrified. Trying to extend dad's life, we agreed to an ileostomy but when it was performed, it proved fruitless. Dad died six weeks after that procedure. Mom was devastated. Not too many years later, I noticed mom began forgetting things. It was subtle but the signs were there. She repeated herself a little too often; she'd forget where she put her purse; she'd call me two or three times a day but never remembered why, etc. Eventually, mom moved in with me. Her dementia was much worse but still tolerable. She could hold small conversations and create full sentences. One day as mom and I reminisced, I asked her to tell me something about dad. She looked horrified as she asked, “I was married?” How could she have forgotten dad? Did she know me? I asked her who I was and answered correctly. That was a relief, so I backtracked to help her remember dad. “Mom, do you remember that handsome young sailor from years ago?” Within seconds, her eyes glowed with love and remembrance. “Oh, yes, my Frankie!” “Mom, he was your husband.” She sat there for a few silent minutes then in a soft voice said, “That's right. I married my Frankie. My sailor. How I cried when he got sick and died.” That was the last full sentence mom said. The dementia took hold in a big way. Mom died not long after. I was reminded of an old Buck Owens song, “Together Again”. Thank you, Buck Owens for writing and performing a song that has become so very dear to me as I think of my parents holding hands and walking forever side by side. For my mom's funeral, I printed a photo of my parents the last time they were together and modified Owens' song to read: Together again her tears have stopped falling; Her long lonely nights are now at an end. The key to her heart he held in his hands And nothing else matters they're together again Together again her gray skies are gone; She's back in his arms now where she belongs. The love that they knew is living again, And nothing else matters they're together again.
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