Ruth’s fragile, gloved hands clutched tightly to her purse as she entered the church. Somber strangers wearing black filled the room and seemed not to see her at all through their tears and memories. Funny, she thought, these could have been my children, my grandchildren. At the front of the church was an open mahogany casket with a black and white portrait of a handsome twenty-four year old in his U.S. Air Force uniform. Oh, those eyes, smiled Ruth to herself. They could make any girl weak in the knees. She made her way down the aisle on her arthritic knees toward the man who might have walked that stretch with her a lifetime ago. When she reached the casket, she looked in and sighed. Lying there was an old man with wispy silver hair and gnarled fingers placed across his chest. It was not Clarence, but it was. Who is this old man? pondered Ruth with sad eyes. She stood staring at his peaceful face until her boy returned. There was the scar above his left eyebrow from when he fell out of the tree house; the jagged bump in his nose after breaking it senior year playing football; those beautiful cheekbones and sharp jaw. “You were always my guy,” whispered Ruth. “Before, during, and after the war. Sorry it took me so long, but here’s my answer.” She pulled a yellowed envelope dated 1944 from her purse and placed it on Clarence’s heart. Then, she turned and left, unnoticed.
June 26, 2012