He wasn’t in his room so we left our rather large umbrella just inside the door (it was pouring outside) and went to look for him.
“He’s probably in the dining room,” I say as we walk back the way we came, past the elevators, past the picture window with the two wing-back arm chairs and Chippendale table where the lady is nodding in her wheelchair. We follow the stream of people coming and going into the dining hall.
I glance around the room, from table to table. Thankfully there were no tables occupied by just one person. Everyone has a friend with which to share a meal. What if I don’t recognize him? It’s been two years since I last visited–no four. What if I confuse someone else for my uncle–how embarrassing, I think.
But then I see him, unmistakably Cecil–a Mace–my family.
We make our way over to his table. I’m carrying the Easter bag filled with Little Debbie Cakes and Cadbury Eggs. My cousin, who visits him weekly, has told me what he likes. I stand by his side. He looks up at me. I know he doesn’t recognize me.
“Hi Cecil,” I say. “I’m Glenda, Wesley’s daughter.” His eyes are tired but he takes it in. After a moment or two he says, “I almost didn’t recognize you.”
“I know,” I say. “We’ve come to see you and have brought you some treats.”
There are two empty seats at the table. “May we sit down?” I ask.
“Yes,” he says and waves his hands (once rough and calloused, now pale and soft) at the empty seats. He was a roofer and contractor.
We introduce ourselves to the man, John, sitting across the table from my uncle. We sit down.
“We’ve brought you some treats,” I say and place the Easter bag on the table.
“Thank you,” he says. “We’ll open them in my room.”
“OK,” I say.
An attendant shows up at his side. “You are ringing?” He asks.
“No,” he says.
“Yes, you are,” the attendant says as he checks the wrist-watch like gadget on my uncle’s wrist. “Did you want to go back to your room.”
“Oh, yes. That’s right,” he says.
I tell the attendant that we can take him. We say goodbye to John. As we are leaving the dessert cart is rolled out.
“Do you want to stay for dessert?” I ask.
“No,” he says. “I have cake in my room.”
I push him out of the dining hall, past the elevators, past the picture window with the two wing-back arm chairs and Chippendale table where the lady is asleep in her wheelchair–an empty coffee cup has rolled from her lap to the floor. Cecil directs us.
We arrive at his room. He spies our umbrella. “Someone has left an umbrella here,” he says.
“Yes, it was us. We came here first looking for you and left our umbrella.”
We help him into his Lazy-boy recliner. The room has a little kitchen and a bedroom/sitting room combined. We see a bathroom through an open door. I recognize the furniture–taken from his house where he lived with my aunt, Mazzie for 50 or more years: the Duncan Phyfe dining room table, the drop leaves down; the upholstered dining room chairs, the Queen Anne end-tables, the crocheted, white doilies. I can almost hear her voice–the sweet timbre of Virginia highlands.
The window sill is full of frame pictures: Cecil in his WWII Army uniform, a family portrait of Cecil, Mazzie and their son, Michael (who died– not yet 18 years old–a hunting accident), grandparents and great-grandparents, his and mine too–a march through time–much of which I remember, first hand.
“Sit down,” he says and points to the other recliner. “There’s another chair by the table,” he says. “Or you can sit on my bed.”
We get comfortable.
“I’m 96 now,” Cecil says.
“A youngster,” I say.
He smiles. We smile. We plunge into memories, my 65 years worth, his 96 years worth–many overlapping.
© Glenda Kotchish
March 14, 2016