Mr. Bob Riley stands before the mirror in his bedroom tying his tie. At 74, his fingers aren’t dexterous enough to make the loops and dips. Annabelle, Anna to her friends, smiles at her father and brushes his fingers away. “Let me help you dad. You’re looking sharp.” Bob stands there admiring the suit he is wearing. “It’s been a long time since I wore a suit, figure I would dress up for your mom.” Anna smiles, and pats her dad on his back. Bob’s clear blue eyes are as strong as the day he came home from World War II.
“Do my medals look right?” Anna puts the camera down, and checks the medals making sure they are aligned properly. “Yep, they are ready. Smile!” With a flash, Anna takes a photo and Bob checks the time. “I got the lunch packed babe; all we have to do is get going!” Bob grabs the basket and walks out to the Chevrolet he bought when he got back home from taking the fight to Hitler. Twisting the key, the engine fires to life. With a squeal, Bob whips out of the driveway and heads toward the beach.
Sunlight shines brightly as Bob drives past various outlets to his and Rosa Lee’s favorite picnic spot. Parking on the hill, Bob pulls out the basket and makes his way to where Rosa Lee will have the blanket set up. Whistling a tune, Bob walks through the shade of the palm trees.
“Look at that view babycakes. After all this time, nothing has changed.” Taking plates from the basket, Bob sets out the meal. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits, and peach cobbler is added to the plates. “Well, it’s time to dig in! Chow down!” Eating way more than he should, Bob stands to digest the food.
“I remember Rosa Lee, when I came home. All those guys had someone waiting for them on the dock. I didn’t. I grabbed my bag and was going to leave when I bumped into you. It was love at first sight. In all my life, I never thought I would meet someone like you.” Tears build up in Bob’s eyes. “You’re the greatest thing to ever happen to an old scallywag like me.”
Unfolding a chair, Bob sits down. People walk past and stare at him, but he doesn’t mind. Patting the tombstone of his wife of 55 years, Bob watches the sun slowly descend in the western horizon. “Today is the 4th of July, our favorite holiday. I can’t stand being in the house by myself. You wouldn’t believe how Anna has blossomed these past few years. She reminds me more of you every day.” Bob’s tears drift down his cheeks in rhythm to the descending of the sun. “Doc says I have dementia sweetheart. There are days when I can’t remember certain things. I don’t want to forget you or Anna. After surviving the hell of war, I don’t want to be an empty husk of who I once was. Please, forgive me for what I have to do to remember you.”
Bob reaches into the picnic basket and pulls out his .45 Colt. Dusk has drifted in from the ocean, and twilight approaches. Bob puts the weapon to his temple and closes his eyes. “Do it already, don’t be a burden on your family.” Anna’s face passes in front of him, the laughter of Rosa Lee on their wedding day fills his ears, and in the darkness, Bob hears a still small voice.
“Daddy? Are you still out here dad?”
Bob puts the gun back into the basket and wipes his eyes. “I’m here kiddo. I just got carried away with your mom. Let’s go home.”
Hugging Anna, Bob turns and looks back at his life’s greatest love and smiles. “I’ll be back to see you. Hold a spot on our bench for me, I will be there eventually.”