By Amy MacKinnon
Tomorrow is my parents 49th wedding anniversary.
Their cake is in my oven. A mylar balloon, Happy Anniversary scrolled across its breadth, bobs in the foyer. A bundle of homemade cards from their grandchildren -- decorated with boats and flowers, rainbows even -- are pasted together to help my parents celebrate their day.
I'll go early to comb her hair and wash her face. If she can muster a little strength to her mouth, I'll brush on lipstick. Tango in Pink.
The rest of my family will gather at 11 sharp to sing to my parents. Mornings are best. We'll smile, try at least, as my father reads aloud the cards to my mother. Later, I'll make a collage of them for her room, something bright and cheerful. I'll cut the cake she can't eat, and if it's a good day, feed her sherbet. Orange is her favorite.
I can't forget to bring her wedding band. It slipped off two weeks ago and will never fit again. But she can wear it tomorrow. At least for a little while.
Years ago, one of my brothers, still just a boy, bought my parents an anniversary gift. It was a set of coffee mugs emblazoned with World's Greatest Lover across the tops and beneath that, cartoons of a voluptuous woman and a strapping man. I thought they looked exactly like my parents, and said so. My brother beamed while my mother and father blushed. Even so they used those mugs every morning, the images of that couple fading little by little, year by year until they were unrecognizable. I remember them well.
Tomorrow, like today and yesterday and the day before that, my father will sit with my mother and hold her hand. He'll give her sips of ginger ale and do his best to understand what she says, though no one really can, but he believes he knows. Maybe he does. The hospice nurse will check her vitals and check on him. He likes that. So do I.
He'll stroke her hair as he reminds her of that frigid New Years Eve long ago when they believed their youth and love and faith could conquer all of life's obstacles. They were mostly right.
Watching them, I'll try not to be bitter toward a disease that's robbed my mother of her vigor, of her memories of her grandchildren and children, of the life she built with the man she pledged herself to nearly fifty years ago. I'll try not to rail against any kind of God who created such a thing.
Instead, I'll place my faith in love. The kind that remains in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. Until death do us part. For now, it's the best I can do.