Jerry’s stomach always knew when his wife Keisha was due to pick him up for lunch. It started growling at 12:45, and at 12:55 he got the text: “Here in front.” Finally, he thought.
He saved his work on his computer, locked up the office, and walked carefully down the three flights of stairs to the lobby of his office building. Once about a year ago he lost his balance and almost fell down the stairs, so now he made sure to keep his hand on the stairway railing at all times.
Spotting Keisha’s car in the parking lot, he got in the front passenger seat and kissed her hello. They’d repeated this routine thousands of times in the twenty-one years since Jerry opened his accounting office and Keisha took off from teaching first grade for what was supposed to be a year to help him start the business. One year quickly turned into twenty-one years, during which Keisha continued to handle Jerry’s accounts receivable and payable in the afternoons after lunch.
“Where to?” Jerry asked.
“Wherever you want,” Keisha replied.
“I can eat anything.”
“Me too — except I need a good meal after my workout class this morning.”
“More than chips and salsa.”
“I’m thinking the bistro.”
“Works for me.”
So Keisha drove to the bistro.
“My knee’s killing me,” complained Keisha as they waited for the hostess. “I must’ve twisted it or something this morning.”
“Table for two?” the hostess said.
“Yes,” Jerry answered. “Can you walk okay?” he asked Keisha.
“It’s just really sore,” she said.
“Here,” Jerry offered his arm and Keisha held it as they followed the hostess.
They sat and the waitress took their drink order, and as always Keisha ordered water and Jerry ordered iced tea.
“You picking up the kids today?” Jerry asked, referring to Jeremy and Rebecca, their grandchildren in elementary school.
“No, Shelly’s off today.” Shelly was their daughter and the kids’ mother, who worked a crazy schedule as a nurse.
Keisha perused the menu. “Did they raise their prices?”
“Probably. Everything’s going up.”
“Good thing I only get the six-ounce sirloin,” said Keisha. “Good thing I only get the hamburger steak,” said Jerry.
“And a three-dollar iced tea.”
“I remember when we both used to be able to eat for ten dollars.”
“Well, it’s not the 1990s any more.”
“Y’all ready to order?” asked the waitress.
As Jerry and Keisha ate their meals, Jerry noticed the hostess standing beside a nearby table holding menus, and he turned to see what she was waiting for. A frail old woman shuffled slowly behind a walker toward the table, and a frail old man shuffled slowly beside the old woman with his hand on her shoulder. They reminded Jerry of he and Keisha when they came in with Keisha’s sore knee.
“I saw on your calendar you have a doctor’s appointment Friday,” said Keisha.
“Yes, with Dr. Decker, the urologist. For my six-month check-up. He’s always on the lookout for something.”
“Better safe than sorry.”
Jerry watched as the elderly couple finally reached their table. The man pulled out a chair for the woman, then grasped her arm to support her as he set the walker aside and guided her into position in front of the chair. Placing both his arms under hers, he lowered her carefully onto the chair, then pushed the chair closer to the table with all his weight before taking his own seat. Neither one said a word throughout the process.
Jerry realized Keisha was speaking to him. “And I said, ‘Because I’m old, Jeremy.’ And he said, ‘Grandma you’re not old. You’re new!’” Keisha laughed.
Jerry laughed along with Keisha. Her laugh was one of the many things he loved about her. What would I do without her? he mused as he glanced back at the old couple.
A menu shook in the old man’s hands as the man studied it silently. The woman stared straight ahead at nothing, also silently. Why don’t they speak to each other? Jerry wondered, disturbed by their quiet sadness.
He started to make a comment to Keisha about the couple — a joke about how that could be them soon — but he stopped short as it occurred to him that it wasn’t a joke. It was true. The couple appeared to be in their eighties. In twenty years, he and Keisha would be in their eighties. Twenty years ago felt like yesterday, and each year seemed to come and go faster than the one before. The old couple were Jerry and Keisha’s future, and that future was near.
Suddenly Jerry felt terrified. “Restroom break,” he told Keisha as he pushed his chair out and stood up.
“Okay,” she replied, picking up her cell phone to check it while he was gone.
In the restroom, Jerry went straight to the sink and splashed water on his face and dried it with a paper towel. Although it was awful to think his days were numbered and the end of his time on this earth and with Keisha was fast approaching, he felt like an idiot for worrying about it.
Grow up and get over it! he told himself with a smirk at his own reflection in the mirror. Today he and Keisha were healthy and happy. Both of them did what they could to keep it that way for as long as possible, and although nothing lasts forever, there was no point in fretting over what couldn’t be changed. They were two of the luckiest people on earth, and this was their time.