Freddie and Fern were an old couple, a
very old couple if truth be told, but on the matter of age, the truth seldom
surfaced. Their kids were grown and gone and had families of their own. All of
them lived in different cities and two of them had even asked their parents to
sell the house and buy a smaller place near where they lived. But Freddie and
Fern, despite all their aches and pains, were an independent couple and they
liked their privacy. Seeing their grandchildren was nice but living close
enough to have to babysit them, that was quite another matter.
Most evenings Fern would sit in her
rocker and work crossword puzzles and Freddie would sit back in his recliner
and watch whatever sport was in season. They were very different people but in
50 years of marriage they had always gotten along well. Each was solicitous of
the others needs. Always had been. But as age encroaches, certain needs
change and others remain the same, life being what it is.
Fern, for example, had arthritis pretty
bad. Her back was always acting up on her. From day to day, it was just a
matter of how bad it was.
Freddie had arthritis in both legs but
he could still get around pretty good for a man with his ailments, too good
sometimes as far as Fern was concerned, especially when Freddie would get that
look in his eye. Sure enough, he would ask her if the next time she had to go
to the bathroom, shed bring him back a Coke from the fridge. And, of
course, she always did.
But Fern always knew it wasnt just
the Coke Freddie wanted. The old goat wanted to watch her walk down the
hallway. He told her many times she had more bounce to the ounce now than when
she was young.
Hardly, Fern thought. Still, it was nice
to hear him say that. But if Freddie looked as though he was going to be
pestering her that night, Fern always wanted to go to KFC for dinner first. And
if she asked Freddie to go there, he would always oblige, hoping everything
would go well later that evening.
On this particular evening, though, when
Fern brought Freddie his Coke, he seized the moment and asked her if she wanted
to go to KFC. Fern hesitated because her back was bothering her something
terrible. She didnt think when they got home she would be able to give
Freddie the dessert he was looking for. But she did like her KFC chicken, two
plump chicken breasts with all the trimmings, so she agreed to go. She could
just see the pond of gravy in the well of her mashed potatoes. And butter
slathered all over her green beans.
At the restaurant, Fern ordered her two
pieces of breast meat, as usual, along with mashed potatoes, gravy and green
beans. Plus a side of cole slaw because she had promised the doctor on her last
visit that she would eat more fiber.
Freddie, who preferred any cut of beef
to chicken, asked for his usual order of gizzards and fries. A chewy gizzard
was really the only part of the chicken he could tolerate. With ketchup on his
fries, he was a reasonably contented diner.
When they had finished eating, Fern knew
that her back was so bad she wouldnt be able to meet Freddies needs
when they got home. She told him nicely in a code they shared that her back was
killing her and that she was afraid there would be no breast meat for Freddie
Freddie hesitated for a moment and then
asked Fern if she thought she would be able to roll over and sleep on her
tummy. Fern said probably so because when her back was this bad, thats
what she usually had to do. Couldnt sleep any other way.
Freddie smiled, sipped the last of his
Coke, and said that was good to know. A little rump roast would make a fine
late night snack.