It was another typical Sunday morning breakfast, him sipping coffee and her nibbling quietly away at her scrambled eggs. It was at these times that they often shared their innermost confidences, yet today he sensed that she was preoccupied, distant. Putting down his coffee cup and looking across at her, he carefully probed, “Is there something you want to tell me?”
Her fork fell onto her plate with a sharp noise, her hands rushed to her face, and she started sobbing. He quickly rose from his chair and moved behind her, his hands rubbing her shoulders. “Go ahead, cry it out, whatever it is,” he said, trying to soothe her. But he was still in the dark about what had brought this on as she continued to snivel and tried to speak.
“I . . . I was . . . I was on the phone with mother earlier. . . before you got up,” she sputtered.
“That’s it, you’re doing fine,” he whispered into her ear. “Is there bad news about your mother? Is that it?”
Wiping her nose and composing herself a bit, she continued haltingly, “She was talking about . . . about a television show she watched last night. Then, right in the middle of talking, she just stopped . . . Oh, God!”
He knew her mother was having heart problems and now was concerned that she had suffered a stroke or something. “What happened? Is she alright?” he asked, truly concerned.
She turned to look at him and answered, “She forgot what she was saying. Just like that, in the middle of her thought. It just went away and didn’t come back. She was so embarrassed and I just didn’t know what to say to her.”
He sat down beside her, his arm around her shoulder, and tried to console her by saying, “It happens to all of us at some point, doesn’t it? It’s almost inevitable. She’s eighty-five. We had to expect something like this, didn’t we?” He paused and then added, “And they have medications today that can help. Why don’t you get her an appointment with her doctor soon, hmm?”
She looked at him oddly, her cheeks still moist with tears. “You don’t understand! 'He' was there with her while I was on the phone! She told me 'he' had come. She felt his presence!” his wife announced with certainty.
“Who’s 'he'?” he asked incredulously. “Just who in the hell is in your mother’s house early on a Sunday morning? Shouldn’t we be calling the police or something?”
“No, no, she’s not in any real danger . . . yet. And you’re right. 'He' does come for most of us at some point,” she continued enigmatically.
He said nothing. Instead, he got up, took his coffee cup, and went to the coffee maker. As he poured himself another cup and making sure she heard him, he asked in a low voice, “Is this more of that Pennsylvania Dutch stuff that your family still believes in? Is that it?” He waited, and then added, “Because if it is, I really think you’re on your own with this one. I don’t buy any of it.”
She swiveled in her chair a bit to face him, the odd look on her face replaced by one of certainty. “Oh, you’ll believe it when 'he' comes for your thoughts! You’ll believe it, but then it’s too late!”
He shook his head and replied, “There it is, again, the mysterious 'he'. Maybe you should fill me in. At least give me a chance to understand you and your mother and all that stuff your family believes in. Go ahead, give it a shot.”
“Okay, okay, here goes,” she announced, standing up and staying across the kitchen from him. “'He' visits all of our families, no exceptions. If your family believes in him, it makes it easier to accept him and what 'he' does. It even comes as sort of a relief . . . an end to the waiting. You see?”
“So why are you having such a hard time if 'he', whoever 'he' is, has decided to make his visit now? Haven’t you been a believer in all this stuff since you were a kid?” he wondered.
She lowered her head apologetically and uttered, “Because I stopped believing when I entered your world. But now, my belief is renewed just by talking about him. I think I’m going to be alright.” And then looking up, she added, “And mom’s going to be just fine, too. He’ll see to that.”
He moved across the kitchen until he got very close. He held her chin lovingly in his hand, looked into her eyes and asked, “Does 'he' have a name? Can you tell me?”
“We don’t say his name out loud. I’ve only seen it written down and in our language. So, no, I can’t tell you,” she said.
He moved away from her and went to the sink with his coffee cup. “Well, like I said before, you’re on your own then, you and your mother. I’ll try to be supportive, but there’s only so much I can give you since I don’t believe in all that stuff. By the way, have you seen my glasses.”
As she watched her husband wash his coffee cup, she noticed for the first time that he had his pajama bottoms on backwards and inside out, his slippers on the wrong feet, and his glasses sitting atop his head.
She felt comforted somewhat by an odd presence in the small kitchen. It was too bad her husband didn't feel it, too. It would be so much easier for him if he did.