I go see her everyday. The same routine. I get up, stumble to make my cup of coffee. Listen to the messages from my daughter begging me to move in with her or my son. I delete them and then go to get dressed. After putting on my khakis and collared shirt, I make my way out of the house to my car. The same red car I have had for years. Before I leave I make sure that the book is in my car. Even though I have read and lived it so many times, I still like to have it to make sure I do not forget any details.
When I get there, the nurses tell me the same thing they say everyday. She is not doing well. No progress. I make my way to room 220. When I enter, she is painting near the window. My heart jumped when I saw what she was painting. Could it be possible that she remembers? I knock at the door. She turns and looks at me with a blank stare. “Who are you?” she mutters. Never mind. With that question, my heart shatters like a window when a bullet goes through it. It does the same everyday when I hear those words. “He is here to read you a story. His name is Michael” Nancy, the nurse says. Joan sits in the chair in the middle of the room. I make my way over and sit across from her. “Michael? What are you going to read me?”
“A story, deep down inside you know very well.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll see… hopefully. Let me start from the beginning. It was the year of 1959. There was a boy. He fell in love with a girl, but the girl did not know who he was. She was smart, beautiful, funny, and everyone loved her. Especially the boy. They were part of different groups. She was going to art school. He was working in a factory outside the town, but every weekend, the boy would go into town everyday to see her. His friends teased him about how he would stare at her and could never build up enough courage to talk to her, but one night he did.”
“What did he say to her?” My heart breaks even more when she says that. How can she not remember words so important to her life? I think to myself.
“He finally built up enough courage, so one night, he walked up to her and said,
‘Hi’ he looked at her not knowing what to say next.
‘Ummm, hello,’ she answered.
‘Hi.’ he said again. He friends laughed.
‘Joan, c’mon,’ they beckoned her.
‘Sorry, I have to go.’
‘Bye’ he answered.’”
“That’s it? That’s all he said?”
“For now, yes. After left stunned by the girl’s beauty, he went back to his friends. ‘What did you say to her?’ They asked.
‘Well, I started by saying hi. And then said hi again, and then bye.’
‘Are you kidding me? You froze? Really? Your only chance with her and that is what you do?’
‘She’s so pretty and so polite, I-’
‘Maybe next time bud.’ They all encouraged him.
‘Yeah… next time.’ Little did he know that next time would come sooner than he thought it would. He went home disappointed that night. All he could think of was how he screwed up his only chance with the women he always dreamed of. He could not sleep, so he decided to go back into town the next morning before work. Across the street, he spotted the blonde curly hair. She was across the street at the flower shop. I can do this. I can talk to her. He thought. He ran across the street and followed her into the flower shop. He pretended to look at the sunflowers right next to the counter. ‘What flowers do you think would brighten up my porch?’ He heard her ask the women behind the counter.
‘Well, right now, the sunflowers are very bright and healthy. You would probably be best off with them.’ The women said as she pointed to where the boy was standing.
‘Excuse me,’ she said. ‘Wait you’re the guy from last night right.’
‘Is that all you can say?’
‘Oh, so he has a bigger vocabulary than hi and bye.’
‘No, I’m sorry I couldn’t talk to you yesterday, my friends were-’
‘They were trying to save you from a guy like me, that’s their job.’
‘What do you mean guy like you?’
‘You know, we’re different, we come from different worlds.’
‘They don’t care and neither do I. You seem like a nice guy.’
‘Would you want to go out with me sometime?’
‘Sure.’ she said and the rest was history. They were inseparable for years to come. When her family didn’t like the idea that they were together, they moved away from them. When he found a new job, they moved closer to that. No matter where they ended up, they always had what made them first fall in love, sunflowers. The End.”
“Yes. The brightest flower. It represents her.”
“Well, I was going to donate this here, but I guess you should have this.” She walked over and picked up the picture on the easel. It was of a flower stand. All the flowers were sunflowers. I would recognize that flower stand and those flowers forever. It is where I fell in love. It’s where I fell in love with a girl that no longer remembers what that flower stand is. I would remember that flower stand until the day I die, but obviously, she did not.