He’d pulled her hair in grammar school, frightened her with frogs and spiders in the summertime and daydreamed about her in class while scribbling her name in his notebook. His first solo bicycle trip was riding past her house. He whispered her name in his sleep.
She approached him at his going-away party, telling him not to forget to write. Amused at his speechless reaction, she kissed his cheek and told him I love you too, silly! Be brave and don’t get hurt and I’ll wait for you.
He survived Omaha Beach unscathed. Sitting in foxholes he dashed off letters to her. Freezing in Bastogne, he kept his promise. He was brave and he didn’t get hurt.
Waiting for him, she’d kept her promise as well.
Sitting in her parents living room, promise kept and handsome in his uniform, he stands to greet his beloved. More beautiful than ever, she smiles sweetly and takes a seat next to him. His hand reaches out to her.…
….and is gently taken by a brown one.
Patients are generally asleep when Maria Magdalena Flores picks up the lunch trays, but the old man in room 415 was smiling, his hand extended to her. She took his hand in hers and smiled back at him.
Her father had gone north to work the fields every year since she was a little girl, sending money and always returning with a gift for his youngest daughter. The best had been a doll, a doll with beautiful long hair that Maria lovingly brushed every day. One year he didn’t return. Oh papa, what happened to you? Did someone hurt you? Did you find some other family, some other daughter?
Tears had begun to trickle down the old man’s cheeks, matching the tears trickling down Maria’s cheeks. She sang “De Colores” to him, as her father had sung to her when she was a tiny girl. As the old man’s face became her father’s, Maria exclaimed “Papa!” and began chattering excitedly about her life, her children, her love for him. Her smile now beatific, Maria sang “La Gloria” and “Cielito Lindo“, kissing his hands and his cheeks, tears of happiness running down her face.
As the old man began to doze, his features became his own again. Eyes moist, Maria thanked the Blessed Virgin for her kindness. She would no longer light a lone candle after mass, she would now light two of them.
Smoothing his bedcovers and collecting his lunch tray, the first guest in many years of the patient in room 415 wheeled away her cart.