June 2, 2010


Last night I had a very restless nights sleep. I woke up several times, and thought for a while about getting up and reading at a too early hour. At least that's constructive, but it worked out o.k. Like most times this happens, it's because my imagination becomes too active and refuses to acknowledge that it too should go to sleep for a while. Anyway here is a little story I wrote after just one of those nights.

By Jim Kittelberger

"Old age is not for sissies." I'd heard that somewhere and isn't it the truth. I'd spent half the darn day doing lawn work. That was something that I could have finished up in about an hour or two before father time jumped me from behind, and I was exhausted when I finally put the lawn mower and weed eater into the barn. A nice soaking bath and a cup of flavored tea later, I felt half way human again. Television as usual offered very little to entertain me. After cycling through the channels one more time for good measure, I surrendered and hit the off button. "At least the remote was a God send," I thought as I remembered when we had to get up and change channels. But then again that was before we had so many channels to choose from.

I finished brushing my teeth, again thankful that they were still my own and workable, and headed up the stairs. I emitted a long sigh as my body welcomed the comfort of a good mattress. That was one of the extravagances that I don't regret. In our younger years together my late wife and I, unable to afford much of anything besides essentials, slept in a bed with a mattress that thought it was a hammock. But our bodies were young and forgiving. "Ah how great it is when we are young," I thought as my mind again took its usual course backward. My wife and I had fifty years together and I missed her greatly. At least when God came to get her, he did it swiftly and painlessly. I have that thought to cling to. When you are married that long and lose a spouse the loss is incalculable. But she is here with me still in spirit. I can feel her presence in each and every room of this old house we lived in together for all of those fifty years. The house needs work, more that I can do myself, but I wouldn't sell it for anything. She is here and it is where I will stay until I join her.

I took up the current detective novel I've been reading. It's a recent passion of mine, these detective stories. They are not too deep or too long, just enough to keep me interested until sleep overtakes me. The words were starting to blur even now, and the book fell out of my hands onto my stomach, my signal to put the book and my glasses on the nightstand and turn out the light. As the room became bathed in darkness broken only by the light from the full moon coming through the window, I heard the familiar night train in the distance; a sound I found comforting. My last conscious thoughts were, "Did I lock all the doors and windows? "Well I'm too tired to go back down, I'm sure I must have." I drifted off to sleep.

My eyes flew open. My ears had picked up a sound but I was not yet awake. I lay quite still, listening closely to what it was that had awakened me. This had happened many times to me in our years in this house. A strange sound, a sound that didn't belong, but on listening again turning out to be a sound from the street or the telephone ringing in the den. Any calls after eleven in the evening were cause for concern. Nothing good could come from a call that late. Usually though, it turned out to be a wrong number. It would make me angry but at the same time a sigh of relief would escape from me as I relaxed. Just when I was certain that it was an outside noise, I again heard a noise downstairs. I stiffened, and I felt waves of nerve endings rippling down my body. "Maybe I'm wrong," I thought, "maybe I didn't hear what I thought I heard." I lay stiffly, not making a sound, listening. The floor squeaked even as someone was trying to walk quietly. The floors always squeaked in this old house. Then quiet. My mind was numb. "What can I do," I grabbed for the cordless phone that my son insisted I keep with me. It was dead. "Oh for crying out loud," I had forgotten to put it back in it's cradle and let it recharge as I had many times before. I closed my eyes, as I would have when I was a kid. I was petrified. "What would someone want with me?" "I haven't got any money, but unless it was someone from the neighborhood, they wouldn't know that." "Maybe whoever it is will steal something downstairs and go away. Yes, that's what they'll do." Just as I had convinced myself that would happen, I heard a footstep on the stairway. "Should I get up and challenge him by shouting at him to get out of my house?" "Then he'd know I was awake, maybe it would be better if I feigned sleep." "I'm not a young man, whoever is on the stairs certainly is younger than I am, and certainly stronger." "Oh God what should I do? Please help me." "He's on the landing. He's coming toward my room. I have to decide what to do. Someone please help me." My body stiffens with a fear I have never known before as the door opens."

A lone policeman and a member of the rescue squad were sitting in the kitchen. The policeman asked the son to repeat what he had just told him. "Well as I said before, I became worried when I kept getting busy signals on the phone and decided to come over and see how my Dad was doing. He's elderly, but very independent. He would never leave this house. Anyway, the house was dark when I arrived, so I used my key and let myself in. I didn't want to yell out for fear of frightening him, so as quietly as I could I went to his room. I thought I would just peek in and assure myself he was O.K. and go home. He gets a little put out if I question his independence, as I said. When I opened the door, he was lying completely silent and motionless with his eyes wide open. His heart must have just stopped. I knew he was gone. That's when I called 911. The son sighed and gave a small smile, "I loved the old man and I'm going to miss him a lot, but when my time comes to go, I can only hope it will come peacefully in my sleep, as it came to him."

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