Touch

Del slid his chair slowly to the edge of the bed. Before sitting, he leaned low and kissed Maxie softly on her forehead. He stood with caution, for sometimes moving too fast made him dizzy and sometimes he fell.

Looking down he reached over to adjust the oxygen tube that started to pull away from her left ear. His deliberate movements followed the instruction the duty nurse gave him to the letter. He wiped softly at the corner of her mouth with a tissue to remove a tiny crescent of spittle that had accumulated overnight. He brushed at a curl of gray on her forehead, which moved at first, but then slid back as his touch passed. He smiled.

Once Maxie was right, he lowered himself into his chair. He reached over and gently scooped up her hand, holding it like a child might a tiny bird’s nest she found in a bush. Her once strong hand, the hand that relished slow-pitch softball and performed Rachmaninoff piano concertos, looked… felt diminished, small and fragile in his.

“Let’s see,” Del said, looking up at Maxie’s stoic expression. “What do I have to share today? Hm…well, Del Junior said he and Tara would try to come up and see you this weekend. It depends on what the kids have going on of course. Rena might enter the national spelling bee and Carter has baseball games. Del said that boy has his grandmother’s arm and can really throw some heat.

I watered your plants, so you don’t have to worry about them. They look great and that little violet you wanted to get rid of, remember that one, well, it’s blooming again.”

Del put out a small laugh, and shook his head a bit side to side.

He talked to Maxie with a slow and steady pace as she lay resting. The beep of the monitor provided an ever-steady rhythm to his conversation. He covered the news of the day, a bit of gossip their neighbor Patty Conklin shared with him about some trouble the Anderson boy got into, and how he finally got rid of that old gray sport coat like she wanted to because, after giving it a good close look, she was right.

“You’d be proud of me Max,” he said. “I just clean got rid of it. I didn’t even entertain the notion of giving it to the Good Will, because you said, that coat had seen three lives already and there was no good reason on earth to force it upon somebody else.” When he said her words, he shifted his voice and tone a bit to sound more like her for a little poke of fun. Maxie lay still, resting.

Del fell silent. With her hand on his, he gently stroked her fingers. He looked down at her hand as his brain whirred through a cascade of memories that he and Maxie shared over their many years together. He clutched her hand as hard as he dare, hoping for even the slightest twinge of a response. He inched closer and held her hand against his lips firmly, warmly, creating a bridge for a tear to travel down his cheek and onto her now ever so delicate fingers.

Maxie stayed motionless. The beep of the monitor consumed the silence.

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