The man and woman stood close together looking down at the gravestone with his father's name so clearly etched on the smooth granite surface. They said nothing, but held to each other hand-in-hand.
In his other hand was a bouquet of large pale yellow gladiolas with deep crimson markings on the lower petals. These had been his father's favorites. He remembered those days when his dad would kneel for hours digging out the soil to plant his yearly replenishment of these flowers. He would lovingly drop the bulbs into the prepared earthen receptacles. He'd always laughed with joy at the first sign of growth.
The man knelt and placed the flowers on his father's grave and stood up. He unconsciously sought the woman's hand and their fingers intertwined.
He cleared his throat and said, “Hi Dad, sorry it's been so long since I stopped to talk, but you know how things are. Since I don't live here, it's kind of tough to just stop by like I was in the neighborhood. But then you knew that from all of those years I lived on one coast and you lived smack in the center of the country. We rarely got to see each other that much.”
He stopped and gently pulled the woman forward, “Dad. Do you remember Carol? Let me refresh your memory. She was my first love in high school. We dated and I was getting really serious about a future with her when you started the pressure.”
“Remember that pressure? You kept at me saying we were too young to get so serious. I should finish my education before settling down. I should date other girls and find out how much I really cared about her. Remember saying all of that to me. Over and over?”
“Remember when I finally caved in and gave her up. And gave her up in an almost cruel manner because she didn't understand why I stopped apparently caring about her.”
The man stopped and squeezed the woman's hand. He started talking again, “Remember Dad when you announced we were going to move away? Remember that one of my friends' folks offered to let me stay with them for my senior year and you nixed it? I think you did that because you knew I would try to take up again with her.”
Remember when I finally graduated and immediately signed up for the Air Force? I needed to get away. I needed my own space. I needed to become my own man.”
“Somewhere during my Air force enlistment, I heard she had married. I really felt miserable when I heard that. I'd done nothing to try to inject myself back into her life, so what right did I have to feel bad that she was now gone from my life? None! So I hitched up my britches and went on.”
He sighed and tightened his grip on her hand, “So long ago. Do you know something? I thought about her a lot. Even when I married, I thought about her wondering where she was, what she was doing, and if she was happy.”
“I can't say either of us were unhappy with our life's direction. We married to great people. She had two girls that are her pride and joy. Me Dad? No I never had any.”
“In some ways I'm still mad at you. I lost five decades of what might have been. Maybe we would have stayed together and married. But in other moments I see that maybe my immaturity back then would have led to some huge mistakes that would have been forever toxic to any relationship with her.”
He stopped and caught his breath. He started again, “Well Dad, it was forty-seven years ago when I walked away from her under your pressure. Guess what? I found her again. She's widowed and I'm divorced. We've been talking on the phone and going on dates every night since we first knew each other was single again. Guess what? In only five weeks we found we never truly fell out of love with each other. We had just placed that love in an hidden corner of our hearts and went on living.”
“It's eerie Dad, she and I have so many similar likes even when our lives took such different directions. We can almost finish each other's sentences and thoughts. The things that led up to our rediscovery of each other are almost mystical. There have been so many coincidences and intertwined actions that have led to us standing here right now, a higher power must be a play.”
“Dad, I heard a saying once, Don't tug on God's beard because he'll have the last word every time. You pulled on his beard forty-seven years ago. Now the last word is his.”
“So Dad, meet my soul mate, my love, the woman that completes me. Say hi again to Carol.”
They stood for a brief time in silence and then, as one, turned and walked away from the grave site. As they disappeared in the distance with their arms wrapped around each other's waist, Dad could see from the brilliant aura of happiness around them, they indeed, were soul mates. And he was happy, too.
- The End -