Plan B - A Short Story
The old man ran his fingers through his more white than gray hair and pondered the peculiar challenge his writing group had selected as their project for the week. He allowed a feint smile to play onto his bearded face, first because he was, even at seventy-five of a mind-set that told him he at least thought young; and second, because, even though there was no such term he could remember when he started his adult life, he had since that time experienced what some thought was plan-B. Of course, he knew the premise of the writing challenge was having to switch to an alternative plan because plan-A, having spent a life of many years with your chosen love, was now over since that person was deceased. It was. And he had to accept that.
So the wry smile was probably more than partially because he thought it ironical that his fifty-five years with Angelina, should never, by all prevailing odds then and now, have happened.
Yet, to begin with, his attitude now of thinking as a younger man, was due in large part to going against what was conventional wisdom back in the mid-nineteen-fifties. At least he certainly felt that way. Come to think of it, conventional thinking now wasn’t much different. Sure, he had traded what his parents and even friends saw as his considerable potential in several areas of possible rewarding endeavor for what they felt was a certain life of mediocrity, if not downright impoverishment. After all, he was only nineteen when he met Angie and she was already twenty-nine and had four children, from two husbands. My God! It was obvious to all he wasn’t thinking with his brain, his hormones had taken control and blinded him.
They were actually more right than wrong about that, too. But he knew something they didn’t. He had found his destiny. This match was made in the ancient laboratory of heavenly sciences. His life and Angie’s had been pre-stamped ‘Do Not Tamper With’. Their lives together were inevitable.
He found it suddenly necessary to remove his glasses and wipe his watery eyes. At the same time, his chest filled with the warmth of a lasting bond that could not die and the feeling of accomplishments not visible to anyone but him. These were the things nothing and nobody could strip from him. He had lived them, he and his Angie. They were undoubtedly not Plan-A, but they were his to cherish and to reflect on as something forged from two people strong enough in their commitment to one another to have lasted nearly fifty-six years. And, overcome a great deal more than such a questionable union would suggest.
But then, he also knew that every person in the group was here for something very similar to his own experience. He knew they, along with himself, were experiencing a loss they had not really thought so much about only because it was something you simply don’t want to think about. And then you are forced to. Only then are you made to deal with its reality.
But he did have something to bring to the table. For starters he had already lived Plan-B. So many people figured this the case.
He was the bright kid with the relatively high IQ who showed immense potential with a capital P. He could not miss no matter what his chosen field: doctor, scientist, engineer, architect, business tycoon, whatever. It would seem, it was his for the taking. But, dear, dear, he chose a woman with four children who was ten years older than himself when he was still not out of his teens. Lord, talk about handicapping your future. Why would anyone with common sense do such a thing? This was not Plan-B, this was, and everyone agreed to no avail, sheer insanity.
Again the wry smile returned to the mischievous bearded face. He knew so much more than he would tell. Not for lack of senseless sensual detail, but because it was so much more than a torrid romance; it was working jobs they didn’t really want but did anyway. It was raising six out of seven children as two determined parents. It was watching all seven kids turn out to be honest, productive, loving adults with families of their own. It was seeing the miracle of a blending of races, colors, and backgrounds that had as a common goal, hard work and honest living as a family. It was about winning and losing and never admitting defeat. It was about fighting and crying, and making up, and getting it right. It was honoring themselves and their family even though they didn’t always do the right thing because they made some bad choices. It was about two committed individuals who just kept on keeping on until one of them finally gave out.
It just happened to be Angie, who many people, the old man knew, had figured was Plan-B, but who he knew was just a little bit more than a plan. She was his destiny. His inevitable life and love. He couldn’t build a bridge or design a building, nor could he mend broken bones or invent a new vaccine. But he could remember fifty-five really great years he wouldn’t trade for all those accolades.
It was a story between Angelina and he, and God. They all got it right.
So, anyone for Plan-C?
D. Kenneth Ross