James Sylvan, slightly bent from the ravages of time, slowly hobbled to the faded
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bench cradled between two stately Elms. His green jacket, white sports shirt and khaki pants were immaculately tailored, crisp and spotless. On the jacket lapel was a small bronzed American flag, glistening against the summer sun. He warily eyed the path, cautious not to trip on the uneven sidewalk. This was the spot he sat every Saturday, weather permitting.
The park bustled. Summer was in its youth and the day dazzling. Young men played soccer on the expansive, exquisitely green lawn. Shirtless bodies taunt and golden; their jubilant cries mixed with laughter as they tirelessly chased that black and white orb. Mothers, “too young” muttered James, radiant in a rainbow of apparel, pushed beautiful babies in equally colorful strollers, laden with diapers, formula and talcum ensuring an extended stay.
James settled back, attempting to find a position where things didn’t hurt so much. He
carefully removed the sandwich from his paper bag and popped the top on a Dad’s root beer, a brand cherished since 1967. It had been love at first sip! After finishing his leisurely lunch, he made sure the trash was carefully returned to the bag for disposal. James made himself comfortable, content to watch the afternoon events unfold.
Soon he was back to his childhood, frolicking in the pastures of youth. Painless and
fancy-free, such magnificent times! Running those fields with his faithful dog, Prince, part Labrador and Sheppard, such a striking pair. Once, when hiking in the woods, James came face to face with an inhospitable black mother bear. He froze in his tracks, fear dripping from every pore. Prince came bounding forward, wild-eyed, white teeth gnashing, meeting mamma head on, causing her to scurry off to check on those cubs that concerned her so.
That memory quickly moved forward to December 7th 1941. Truly a “Day of Infamy.”
A young adult faced with war, James met those challenges straight on. Leaving his beautiful fiancée, Eleanor, he volunteered immediately and fought fiercely for the freedom of his dearly loved democracy. He returned from that war a hero and took Eleanor for his bride. They were married fifty-two years.
James proposed to his beloved right here on this very bench. This was their spot. They
cherished this park. A multitude of summer Saturdays had been spent here. They so
dearly treasured being in love. They laughed, cried, fought, reconciled, reminisced and
romanced here. They claimed the North Star as their very own, proclaiming it’s pure and
brilliant light reflected their undying adoration. Two years ago, Eleanor had passed, and
James was left with only memories of his wife and best friend.
James jolted from his reverie. He hazily looked about to see if anyone was watching.
Of course, they weren’t. Who had the time to concern themselves, amidst summer’s
splendor, with an old man dozing on a bench, drool running down his chin onto his crisp,
white shirt? The day had passed and the park was nearly empty. The sun, massive on the
horizon, cast rich, golden hues on everything it touched. It was so radiant that briefly
James thought he had departed earth, and reunited with Eleanor, was standing before
Saint Peter at the golden gates, what a blessing that would be. Slowly, senses returning,
he sadly realized that it was merely the setting sun, not Heaven, but quite spectacular
James looked down at his shirt, embarrassed by the wet spot soaking through the
cotton material, feeling the cool dampness of saliva against his skin. He silently cursed
his slumber. “Oh Eleanor” he spoke misty eyed. “I miss you so, my love.” Time passed,
nightfall settled on the familiar landscape. James weakly lifted himself from the bench.
He’d been sitting too long. His limbs felt like concrete, massive and immovable.
James fell back on the bench and began to cry, not from the aching numbness, but from
desperate loneliness. Tears flowed like torrents of rain, wild and unabashed. Finally the
flow ceased. James removed his jacket and used it to wipe his face. He laid the crumpled
garment on the bench. This was the first time he had let himself grieve for Eleanor. Calm
washed over him. He knew the dreadful wait was over.
His craggy, tear-streaked face, as if lifted by gentle hands, slowly met the night sky.
The brilliant light of the North Star filled his blue eyes. With a knowing smile, James
whispered, “Yes Sweetheart, I’ll be home soon.”