The door closed.
"Remember that time we went for a slide down the ski hill in the dark?" Jake said into the silence. "And what about the time we went to Rome and did as the Romans do?" He smiled gently. "And that time we went to the beach with the kids and they buried their toys in the sand the day before we left? That was fun dealing with their tears as we left the beach and the toys behind."
"But, more than all that, I think we've done a pretty good job of raising the kids. They're all out in the world doing their own things, being successful and upstanding. Sure, they've all had their bumps and bruises as they've gone along but together we managed to take the sting out of most of those." He paused.
"And you know? I'm not sure I'd do a lot differently. Sure, maybe we could've waited to get married until we were both done with college. We still did OK for ourselves, didn't we, Evie? And, sure, maybe we could've waited to have the kids. But, you know, at least we were still young enough to enjoy raising the kids. I can't imagine how we'd've kept up with three toddlers if we'd been any older. I get tired all over again just thinking about it. And we were still young enough to enjoy each other and some adventures when the kids were gone. Yeah, looking back on it, I think we did that just about right. Especially the enjoying each other part," he said with a twinkle in his eye.
"Thank you for being there for me through my career changes. It's a good thing you were steady. You were my rock, my anchor that kept me grounded. Wait... That didn't come out quite right. But you know what I mean. You gave me a reference point, someplace that would always be there, a stability I wouldn't have had otherwise. I thank you for that, my dear."
"And thank you for being open to adventures like we had. I mean, moving across the country when we had hardly begun our life together? And then add in that thing in Des Moines? That would've broken a lot of couples. But we made it through, didn't we? And we were stronger for it. I'm sure my family - and your family, too - thought we were nuts to up and go like that with nothing guaranteed at the other end. Whew. I'm glad we did that when we were young." Jake smiled ruefully. "An older version of us might have been too sensible to take that on."
"Are you sorry we scrimped and saved and short-changed ourselves a bit for the kids' education? I'm sure not. But, wow. All three of them accepted the same day into Stanford." He grinned. "I'm not sure the school knew what it was in for."
"But it all comes back to you and me, doesn't it? Our ups and downs, our commitments, and our attempts at things that didn't quite work out, they're what made our life exciting and interesting. Thank you."
A thoughtful pause hung heavy on the air.
"Well, Evie, it's been a heck of a ride with you." As the day's last light reflected from the lake Jake carefully stood. He paused with his hand on the doorknob, then turned and let himself out of the hospice room that had been his second home since Evie took ill.