by Sharlyn Guthrie
Willard and George were admitted to the nursing home as roommates on the same day. I was there, finding just the right spot for Willard’s lift chair, labeling his clothing, and seeing to it that he was as comfortable as possible, because Willard is my father. While moving to a nursing home is never easy, spending the past month in the hospital was worse, so with resignation my father began to familiarize himself with his new surroundings and with his roommate, George.
Almost immediately we discovered that the two roommates shared a liking for talk-radio programs. Relieved that this pastime would be equally enjoyed by both men, we began seeking other commonalities. George lifted a large tattered Bible from his nightstand. Grinning, my father pulled his own well-worn Bible from the bag I was unpacking. I smiled, breathing a prayer of thanksgiving for the Lord’s provision in these smallest of details.
The conversation turned to family, and we learned that both men raised only daughters, no sons. My father’s eyes welled up with tears as he told George about Bernice, his wife of sixty years who had passed away just nine months earlier. George expressed his condolences, but then his eyes brightened. His wife, Ruby lived here in the same nursing home! George explained that she needed more care than he, so she was in a special room down the hall. He used to come and visit her every day, but for several months now he had been unable to drive, so his visits had been less frequent. He seemed elated that he would again be seeing her daily.
At dinner time I watched amused, as George and Willard shuffled off to the dining room, walkers extended in front of them. I observed their matching height and slight build, and noted that each of them wore a plaid flannel shirt. George fastened his belt high above the small paunch of his stomach, while Willard avoided the belt problem altogether by wearing overalls. They made quite a pair! Again I thanked God for so quickly providing my father with a companion.
George and Willard continued to enjoy each others’ company, but the indelible vision I have of George was witnessed by my husband and I one evening as we passed through the large sitting area on our way to visit Willard. My husband tapped my arm and pointed across the way.
On this particular evening George was seated in an armchair wearing a white shirt, with his black slacks characteristically pulled up under his armpits. His thin, unruly hair had been slicked back along the sides of his head. His normally gray, sunken eyes sparkled and a gentle smile warmed his opaque face. For next to him sat Ruby.
Ruby, wrinkled and disheveled, dressed in pajamas and a floral duster, had been positioned and tied into a tall straight-back chair with wheels and a tray. Her head drooped onto her chest, and her eyes were closed, drool coursing down her chin. It’s doubtful that she knew George was beside her. But George beamed, reaching up to hold her fragile hand in his, exulting in the presence of his beloved Ruby.
My husband and I reverently paused to take in the sight, and then continued down the hallway. It’s a sight we will never forget. Though we have attended countless weddings and anniversary parties, listened to hundreds of love songs, and watched dozens of romantic movies, the picture that best captures the essence of enduring love is a picture now seared in our memory …the picture of George and Ruby.
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An Open Book. Please visit her blog to link to more great fiction.