THE WRITE PLACE…

to find Patti Singleton these days.


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A-Z April Challenge; C is for Continued

Bench and clock tower. Eagle River, Alaska PHALL PHOTO 2014

Bench and clock tower.
Eagle River, Alaska
PHALL PHOTO 2014

The Bench, continued

Long shadows fall all around the empty bench. The clock tower stands sentinel. No footprints mar the glistening snow that blankets the ground. Only sun and shadows touch the cushion of snow on the seat. The bitter Alaska wind has dashed the layer of snow completely off one wooden arm rest, while it gently draped the snow over the other arm rest, like a scarf left behind.

Part 1 here

By the time he finally asked her to go to the summer dance, she was already in love with him. He was her brother’s best friend and he was always around their house. This was the first date for both of them. When she went to answer the door, her grandmother came down the stairs and wrapped a maroon silk scarf around the girl’s neck. Her face grew bright and she kissed her grandmother’s cheek. She had coveted the scarf ever since her grandfather had given it to her grandmother when the girl was only seven.

The dance was wonderful and the young couple were in young love. The scarf was left behind and it was weeks before the girl even remembered it, she was so caught up in the heady feelings of love. By then she was getting ready to fly out of state to stay with her oldest sister for the summer and he was barred from their home after a fight with her brother. The boy found out she was leaving and raced to the airport with the scarf in his pocket. He had slipped it in his pocket when she dropped it at the dance and hadn’t had the chance to return it. He couldn’t find a parking spot and by the time he got to her gate she was gone.

They didn’t see each other again until they were in their 50’s. They had both raised families, been married and divorced. She was back in their home town to help her brother recover from surgery. The boy, who was now a man, still lived in town and stopped in to visit his old friend. They had made up years ago and were now very close. When she walked from the kitchen, to her brother’s hospital bed in the living room, she saw a stranger standing by his side. They both stood frozen and stared at each other, while her brother smiled from his propped pillow.

She stayed in town for five weeks while her brother recovered. Although her first (and new) love only lived a few blocks away, they only saw each other occasionally, at her brother’s bedside. The rest of the time they talked on the phone, catching up, late into the night. She spent most of her waking hours caring for her brother and his home and visiting her nieces and nephews at their house.  The couple had found love again and by the time she was ready to go back to her home in Alaska, they had made plans for him to come stay with her later that summer.

He put his house on the market, sold or gave away all his belongings, and moved lock, stock and barrel, to be with her in Alaska. He rented a car at the Anchorage airport and carefully followed her written directions. She walked to the small park near her house and smiled as he walked toward her. They hugged and kissed for the first time since they were kids and he lovingly slipped the maroon silk scarf around her neck as they lowered themselves onto the park bench.

Two months after their deaths, I had the worn bench replaced with one that includes an engraved plaque in memory of the couple who had spent many afternoons over the last 40 years enjoying each other’s company in that little park. The old worn out bench has a pace of honor in the entry of my condo. I can see both benches while standing at my sink.

Patti Hall 2014

http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/a-to-z-challenge-sign-uplist-2014.html


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A-Z April Challenge; B is for Bench

Empty Bench in Snow. Eagle River, Alaska PHALL PHOTO 2014

Empty Bench in Snow.
Eagle River, Alaska
PHALL PHOTO 2014

The Bench

Long shadows fall all around the empty bench. No footsteps mar the glistening snow that blankets the ground. Only sun and shadows touch the cushion of snow on the seat. The bitter Alaska wind has dashed the layer of snow completely off one wooden arm rest, while it gently draped the snow over the opposite arm rest, like a scarf left behind.

She did leave her maroon silk scarf behind on the bench, one cool spring day, and he walked all the way back to retrieve it. The round trip was only about a quarter of a mile from their nursing home, but if you saw his painful gait, you would know what it had cost him. I knew. I had watched the elderly couple make their afternoon pilgrimage to the bench, at least four times a week, for almost eight years. The weather rarely stopped them. How many dishes had I washed gazing at them out the garden window from my kitchen sink? On that first afternoon that I saw them, right after I moved into my condo, I slid my pots of African Violets aside to get a better view. I was hooked. Their tender love for each other showed in every gesture they made.

And now I knew why the scarf was precious enough for him to retrieve it, despite his obvious pain. I stood at the sink staring at the empty, snow-covered bench, while I held the story of their lives in my hands. The carefully handwritten book, wrapped in the same maroon silk scarf, was delivered to me this morning. I had just finished reading their obituaries in the morning newspaper. I cried when I opened it and realized what they had left me. I cried most of the way through it; sometimes happy tears, sometimes bittersweet or sad tears.The scarf was very much a part of the beginning, middle, and now the end, of their love story.

Our lives only touched once during the eight years that I witnessed them visiting the park bench. A stately clock tower stood sentinel behind the bench . Both were in the middle of the postage-stamp sized park across from my condo. It must have been about the fifth year, because I had just sold the first copy of my first book, a memoir about my parents meeting and marrying during World War Two. That day, the old couple had been sitting on the bench, snuggled close and smiling as they talked. It was late spring and the sun was playing chase with the clouds in the sky. I was rinsing my lunch plate when the rain started.

The couple were drenched by the time I grabbed my umbrella, ran down two flights of stairs and across the street to the park. I was drenched too. They laughed when I tried to hand them the umbrella and then they both scooted to the side and pulled me down between them. By now we were all laughing and wet, the umbrella was no use to any of us. Seconds later the downpour ended and the sun came out. I started to get up, but they each held an arm, to keep me between them, as they introduced themselves.

We didn’t talk long, but I managed to tell them how much I had enjoyed watching their trek to the park bench all these years, from my kitchen window. They asked what I did for a living and I proudly told them about my book. She asked me a lot of questions about it, while he sat back and smiled, just watching her talk. Those were worshiping eyes. Hers were the same when they glanced his way. I hadn’t seen this kind of love since I last visited my parents in Washington.

She dug around in her purse and pulled out a paper and pen and asked if I wouldn’t mind writing down my name and the name of my book. I happily complied. We said our goodbyes and walked out of the park together. I stood on the sidewalk and watched them walk away, hand-in-hand, until they were out of sight. Four days later I received a sweet thank-you note. Five weeks later they sent me a note about how much they both loved my book. I still have that note slipped between the pages of my original manuscript of the memoir.

When their handwritten book was first delivered I couldn’t grasp why they sent it to me. I wasn’t a relative or even a close friend. Then I remembered the last line of their long-ago note to me, “We have almost finished writing our own love story and we would be honored if you would help us publish it when we are finished.” I admit that I didn’t take the request too seriously and completely forgot about it as the months and years went by.

Through the following years, I rarely missed seeing them walking to or from the park, and they always looked up and waved, and often he would blow me a kiss. She would raise two fingers to her mouth and giggle at his antics. I felt I would be intruding, so I never went down to visit them. However, watching them and sharing waves with them, was almost always the best part of my day.

Although I’m writing this with tears in my eyes, because they are both now gone, I also have the years of happy moments that they left me. And their story! And the scarf! Their story began with her wearing the scarf on their first date, when she was 15 and he was 16. They lived to be 89 and 90, but they only had 40 years together. I know, the numbers don’t add up. That’s where the bittersweet comes in.

Read the end of the story in tomorrow’s A-Z April Challenge; C is for Continued…

Patti Hall 2014

http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/a-to-z-challenge-sign-uplist-2014.html


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THE Story and A Secret Revealed

Winter Wonderland at Mom & Dad's in Eagle River, Alaska PHALL PHOTO 2014

Winter Wonderland at Mom & Dad’s in Eagle River, Alaska
PHALL PHOTO 2014 Is that snow flake shaped like a heart?

STAR DATE: 01/13/2014

No, I am so NOT a Trekky, but the numbers of this new year seem so sci-fi, so futuristic. Maybe even more so, since Mrs. M’s son has transported me back with memories of the late 1970’s. Also, way back in 2013…okay, a little over a week ago, I visited my cousins, who were as close as brothers and sisters back in the 1970’s. Even my reunion with Leslee was a trip backwards in time; to the late 1980’s and 90’s.

ON TO THE STORY…

The morning of New Years Eve found me all girlied up, with a pretty pedicure, unsnarled hair (thanks to my daughter), make-up and painted fingernails, courtesy of Leslee. Sheesh, this was just not me. Plus, I was on my way to see a guy who lives in the middle of nowhere and whose solitary life is very similar to my cave woman ways. At least they didn’t make me dress up.

I suppose that it would only be fair if I backed up a bit and and started from the beginning. THE story that I mentioned a few weeks ago…

Once upon a time (Oh! Don’t you just love those four words!?) in the Land of the Midnight Sun, lived a boy and a girl who were destined to friendship and merged stories…eventually. We’ll call them Kevin and Patti and their story began with a sweet love story between Kevin’s brother and Patti’s sister back in the summer of 1973.

This is also where Mrs. M. (you remember Mrs. M. and how I helped her escape from the rehab/nursing home in Oregon?) has a walk-on part in this story. See, Mrs. M. was not exactly a happy camper about that aforementioned “sweet love story” between her son and Patti’s sister. So, naturally, when Kevin’s 15-year-old rushing-hormone eyes caught sight of 15-year-old, tall, blondish Patti, keeping his interest in a Hall girl from his mother, was a top priority. (Right up there with getting a date with Patti!)

Memories blur a little here, but according to Patti’s 74-year-old mother and the now 54-year-old Kevin, the first date went something like this:

Patti’s mom provided the transportation to the Pearl Harbor war movie, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” where the teens sat in the front row, and where Kevin admits that he did not make a “move” on Patti. Technically, that’s 3 strikes against Kevin, but all these years later I give him credit for trying (oh, and tons of credit for remembering and admitting the error of his ways). At least one other time, Kevin hung out with the family at the Hall house, however…

Despite his best efforts, Mrs. M. found out that Kevin had been spending time at the Hall house and forbade any further contact with them. Within a few years, the sweet love story between Kevin’s brother and Patti’s sister culminated in a wedding ceremony in 1978. That marriage is still going strong 35 years later, while Kevin and Patti hadn’t seen each other in almost 40 years. Not that Kevin didn’t try…

This is the part where you really get behind Kevin’s efforts. Sometime, a year or so after that first date, on a bright summer day, Kevin was out putting stripes on his truck. The phone rang and it was Patti’s sister telling him that Patti was at the airport and was about to leave Alaska. Kevin got in his truck and raced to the airport…

He tried the airport parking, but didn’t have enough change, then he drove over to a small lot and parked there. He ran to the boarding gate…and he was 15 minutes late.  My airplane was gone.

Then life happened and almost 40 years went by. The same infamous Mrs. M. that kept us apart as teens, brought us together in our 50’s. Kevin private messaged me on Facebook to see how things went while I was taking care of his mom, and we’ve been catching up ever since. Did I mention that he is the biggest flirt on the planet?

THE NEW STORY

(Repeat) The morning of New Years Eve found me all girlied up, with a pretty pedicure, unsnarled hair (thanks to my daughter), make-up and painted fingernails, courtesy of Leslee. Sheesh, this was just not me. Plus, I was on my way to see a guy who lives in the middle of nowhere and whose solitary life is very similar to my cave woman ways. At least they didn’t make me dress up.

I had butterflies the whole way out to Kevin’s house. I pulled into the local grocery store and called Kevin to let him know I was in town, so I could follow him back to his place. Kevin might have been just as nervous, but he set me at ease right from the start. Smiles. Long hugs. Hello, old friend.

We had a mellow New Year’s Eve playing pool and listening to a huge list of songs from 1950’s, on up. There were a lot of songs from the 70’s and we had fun guessing names of songs and who sang them. Kevin created a homemade pizza, while I watched. It was delicious! Later, we took a walk through his neighborhood in the dark. Later still, his cat purred and finally scoped me out enough to hang out with us on the big soft couch.

Neither of us wanted to stop talking, but by 2 a.m. we were ready for sleep. I was exhausted by all the visiting and driving that I had done the past few days and fell into a hard sleep the second my head hit the pillow. If I would have just shut the bedroom door, Kevin would still not know about my occasional snoring issues:>)

The End…For Now,

Patti