A Love Affair to Remember
Jane L. Daffron
It was late in the afternoon that sunny April day…the pungent smell of honeysuckle hung heavy in the air. She walked slowly to the gravesite on the hill as was her custom whenever she felt lonely. Sitting down on the bench, she leaned slightly back and sighed. Lately, she’d been so tired, finding it harder and harder to get the daily things done or even to concentrate. The only peace she could find was here next to him. Sitting here, she looked out over the vast compound grounds…taking it all in and remembering…back to the very day she and Caitlin first arrived at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research.
She looked longingly back at the granite headstone…the name, date, and the rendition of the Seaview as clear today as it was on the day it had been placed there. Only just recently she’d had her own name added to the stone; it now lacked only the final date for its’ completion.
"Not much longer, Harry. I know that. I guess I haven’t wanted to admit it for a long time now…but I know it’ll be soon. I swore I’d never go out of this world willingly, but I’m tired…I never thought I’d say this…but I am." She reached out and touched the stone, caressing it lovingly, then looked back at the grounds. "They can do without me now. Sean’s grown…you know he’s married to Rachel and you’re a grandfather, Harriman. You should see her…she’s beautiful. She’s got the Nelson eyes…and my hair…your Irish temperament…and Rachel’s coloring. You’d have loved having her around…she reminds me so much of Sean when he was her age. She was christened in the Nelson gown, too. Sean finally found it in Seamus’ sea chest along with our letters. You know…I thought we’d lost those…that they’d gotten thrown out when we remodeled the house. I was so glad when he found those…I missed seeing your words to me"
Sitting back, she closed her eyes. It seemed like it was just yesterday when they had driven through that front gate and their lives had been changed forever. The images swirled in her mind from so long ago. Miramar…the boat…the cabin…Hana… The walks on the beach…the long talks they’d have. Sean’s birth, Caitlin’s wedding to Lee… The way he made love to her, so tenderly it’d make her cry. And then…the night he died.
"Harry," she whispered. "I miss you…so much. So very much…" A single tear slowly formed and slipped silently down her cheek. "I’ve done all I can do…I’m too tired now. I don’t have the strength I used to…when you were alive." A soft smile appeared among the wrinkles. "You never realized how much strength I drew from you…you thought I was so strong." She chuckled a bit. "Boy, did I have you fooled…and them as well. Y’all never really knew how very scared I was a lot of times."
A light breeze came up as a single cloud slowly moved overhead. "Sean can handle things now, Harriman…he and Caitlin have things well in hand for the family. You know…you were as much a father to her as Robert was. You really were. She loved you as much as she did him. I hope you really know that…and I know that you loved her. You never knew how much that meant to me."
Her voice became softer…almost a whisper. "You built all of this, Harry, and you never asked for one iota of recognition. Never. You let your deeds speak for you…and your son’s doing that, too. He’s grown into quite a man, our son. I’m so very glad you lived long enough to see that. Sean is the greatest living example of what and who Harriman Nelson was."
"And he’s as much part of you as he is of me, Karen," the wind whispered in her ear. "He’s your son, too."
"Harriman!" She lifted her eyes, startled at what she thought she’d heard. Looking around, she didn’t see anyone around her, but there’d been no mistaking that voice. "Where are you?"
There was no answer, only silence and the slight ruffling of the new leaves on the trees as afternoon drew into dusk. She watched as the sun started its slow descent to the horizon. She was tired…too tired to walk down the hill. Instead, she decided to rest a bit before starting back. Sean and Rachel would be waiting for her for dinner. A special dinner…for her at least. It would have been their wedding anniversary. It would have been 43 years since the day they married. Her mind wandered back to that day…to the ‘white aisle’, her dress, her daughter giving her to him…all of that wonderful, beautiful day. And the most magnificent of all…Harriman Nelson standing waiting for her to join him.
"Marry me again, Karen?"
She looked up, startled. That voice again…where was he? "Harriman…you know I will," she whispered. "I love you. Always…"
Dr. Rachel Nelson started to worry. Karen had never been late for dinner with them. Never. In fact, she was the epitome of punctuality. As soon as Sean came through the door, she told him that his mother was late. He assured her that he knew exactly where to look. Driving up to the hill, he saw the figure of his mother sitting peacefully on the bench as she always did on this day. It wasn’t unusual to see her sitting there – he knew she went there often and on this particular day, she’d most definitely be there. His mother had always missed his father and even though she’d have never admitted it, he’d always felt that somehow she was never the same after he died.
He’d mentioned it to his sister one day and she told him that the observation didn’t surprise her. Then she related to him how their mother had been when her own father had died and how that Nelson had ‘revived’ her…put the light back into her eyes. Caitlin had only been eight when her father had been killed, so she’d seen her mother’s grieving first hand before.
As he got out of the car, he noticed how peaceful she looked sitting there next to his father’s grave. It had never ceased to amaze him to watch them together and see the depth of their love for each other. His mother had often talked of her first husband, Robert - Caitlin’s father - with warmth and love. But even Caitlin saw the special bond between Harriman Nelson and their mother, for it had been she who had managed to get the two of them together.
Approaching her, he saw her head bent slightly as if in prayer. As he approached her, there was something different about her that struck him. A sereneness seemed to emanate from the immediate area. Coming up to the gate, he called out, "Mom? It’s time for dinner."
There was no answer nor did she acknowledge his presence.
"Mom?" he again spoke as he opened the gate and stepped inside. Reaching his mother, he noticed her eyes were closed but as he looked closer, he realized why. Stooping down beside her, he took the stilled hand in his and bent his head, tears slowly running down his cheeks. "Oh, Mom…" He bent his head in prayer and then moments later, looked up. The last rays of sunlight seemed to strike directly on her as well as the granite stone next to her. A peacefulness filled his being as he looked into her face and he could have sworn there was a smile on her lips.
"At least you and Dad are together now…forever."
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