One of the hardest things, after years of doing it, was to stop herself from putting two eggs in the poacher. Anna stopped and stared at the egg in her hand and then laid it back in the carton. It had been three days since she had been back from being mostly at the hospital and then at her daughter Rachel’s house. Daniel had finally passed away after months of being ill. Anna had finally stopped herself. That was an accomplishment, as was not putting out his plate and coffee cup and calling for him to get up. It was hard to remember that he was gone, rather than just still abed, the lazy man. She had always hated that he would sleep until just about the time when breakfast was ready, the children were dressed and the dog had been walked. It was a small irritating habit of his that she would give anything to be able to growl about now.
She flipped on the television for the morning news and poured herself a cup of coffee. She wasn’t hungry at so she flipped the poacher off and grabbed the toast that had just popped up. That would keep her going. As she munched her toast she thought about coming home last night. Rachel sure hadn’t wanted to leave her there but Anna had insisted. She had been tired. She wanted her own bed and her own pillows. It had been too long that she’d seen it She fell asleep as soon as she had gotten undressed. She could still smell Daniel on the pillow next to hers: hair gel, and not the top shelf kind but that which you find on the bottom shelf where they put the rarely sold products. She had woke up expecting to see him there next to her. It was something to get used to and more than a little disappointing.
Rachel would not be satisfied until she took her mother out of the condo. Anna was thinking that it could become a problem. Rachel was headstrong, which was not a bad thing, necessarily. It got her through med school and a really intensive residency program. For Anna though, she hoped that Rachel would find something else to do. Today she would start the task of sorting and clearing out Daniel’s things. If she left it then Rachel would be more apt to bother her about moving. Anna couldn’t really blame her for being a bit worried. Still, she would like to have the choice of where to live and not be pushed.
She finished her coffee and moved toward the bedroom. She would start with the closet. That seemed like the most logical place. She pulled out all of the suits and shirts and laid them on the bed. She had thought about boxing them up but getting the boxes would have been a little inconvenient and they were just going to the Good Will anyway, so she had decided to put it all in bags and then to give them a call to pick it all up later in the afternoon. For the most part it had not been a hard job. There were a couple of things that brought back memories. They were a little hard to let go but where would she wear a hounds tooth jacket? It sure was an ugly thing..along with that plaid polyester sport jacket ugh. He had loved both of those though
She emptied the closet. She emptied his drawers. She took all of his stuff out of the bathroom. That was the easy part. In the corner covered with a stack of quilts was his footlocker. Daniel had carried that old footlocker around from place to place since she had known him. He had never let her look inside. In fact it had almost destroyed their marriage once. She looked at the ugly old thing.
“It’s mine.” Anna could still here him say that. “You already got rid of my chair!”
Right after they had retired and got the condo, Anna had hired one of the teenagers down the block to carry it outside to the dumpster. It was ugly and this was her new place near the beach. It would be stylish and pretty if she had anything to do with it. She had never seen Daniel so angry. Luckily he had been able to retrieve it before the garbage men came along. He had been livid. He kept saying over and over that it was his and that it was the only thing he had ever asked her to simply leave alone.
That had made her even more curious about what was inside the damn thing but she was too afraid of what Daniel might do to even think about that awful box again. She had never seen a man so angry that he was close to shedding tears. She moved the quilts and there it was: a shabby old beat up, ugly World War II army footlocker. it was the source of mystery, a source of misery and a terrible eyesore for anyone with any kind of decorating sense. She was still hesitant to open it. The key was on his key ring. He had carried it with him for 60+ years.
“O.k. Danny, I am opening your stupid box!!” Anna yelled at an empty apartment, half expecting Daniel to rise up and scream,
“It’s MINE!! Leave it alone!!”
When he didn’t, Anna still looked over her shoulder before slowly inserting the key into the lock. She heard it click as she turned the key and the lock fell open. She held her breath as she removed it and slowly started to raise the lid. Inside was a treasure.
Just on top of everything was Adam’s baseball glove. Anna didn’t think that she could cry any more after the last few months but they came sneaking down her wrinkled cheeks. She held it to her face and smelled the leather. Adam had been their beautiful boy. He was killed in action in Viet Nam. As she looked through the contents, all of the little stories of their family, a complete history of the family came to mind in those objects. Morty, Adam, Rachel, and Simon…he had saved things from each of their lives. He had saved everything. He had saved her letters from before they got married. He had saved photos of him and her brother in the war. It was all there.
“Oh, Danny…” she whispered, “I love you so….”