Who's Gonna Die First?
That was a question that I asked myself in regards to my own marriage shortly after my mom passed away in 1985. I looked at my wife, a mere child of 23 at the time, in perfect health. I compared her to myself, a then semi-professional athlete, also in perfect health. I looked at my dad, who was grieving over the love of his life, not in the best of health. He followed her 14 years later.
But that was 27 years ago. Now my wife and I are older and heavier and not in such good shape anymore. We ask ourselves that question now, and I am sure that she is quietly saying to herself “He is” as she smiles while she puts my dinner on the table in front of me. I ask myself that question, and I think “she is. She doesn’t take care of herself.” It seems as though we look at each other with soft smiles, each of us planning our life after the other’s imminent demise.
I keep getting these things in the mail from Met Life or Mutual of Omaha offering me life insurance. I throw them away, but they seem to disappear from the trash. Soon my wife walks in and says “sign this.”
“What is it?” I ask.
“Life insurance.” I perused the paper that I am about to sign as she is looking through the gun catalog.
“One Million Dollars?!” I say. “We can’t afford those premiums!”
“I have it worked out.” She says. I hand her back the paper, unsigned, which irritates her. “You’re going to drive me to my grave!” She exclaimed as she snatched the paper from my hands.
I was pretty much thinking the same thing. I just don’t know where I left the car keys.
The next day she came out to the garage with another form to fill out, this time from the AARP. She handed it to me to sign, but I couldn’t at the time, as I was greasing the brake pads on her car. “Will you sign it later?” She asked.
“Sure.” I later went in to my home office and sorted through some old papers and found another life insurance application from my employer. I filled it out in her name with myself as the beneficiary. It was for $250,000. “That’s enough for a funeral, a new truck and a new fishing boat” I thought to myself. I took it to her to sign.
“If you have insurance on me, then I should have some on you as well.” I told her.
“How do you know I’m going to die first?”
“How do you know you’re not?” We exchanged the papers and put them in their respective envelopes. She put them in her purse to mail them in the morning, and went into the kitchen to make dinner. Soon she called me in to eat and I sat down to a hearty vegetable soup. It had a different smell to it, not bad, but different. I looked around the room. There was an empty Pine Sol bottle on the counter.
“What’re you looking at?” She asked.
“I just noticed that we were out of Pine Sol.” I began to eat my soup when I noticed that she was eating a sandwich. “Why aren’t you having soup?”
“My stomach is a little off.” She said.
After she went to bed, I snuck the envelopes out of her purse, re-did my application for $1 Million and mailed it to my insurance company. I threw hers away and replaced it with an empty envelope. About a week later, I got my policy on her from the insurance company. She got her policy on me in the mail a few days later.
She had beaten me to the punch.
We sat on the couch together one night watching the news. The anchorman was talking about an asteroid that was passing very close to the earth.
“Do you think that we’ll ever get hit by an asteroid?” She asked. “Half of the people on earth will be killed.”
“Maybe you should go visit your mother for a while.” I told her. Her mother lives about 500 miles away.
“Are you trying to get rid of me?”
“No, honey. I mean you haven’t seen your mom in a while. You should go visit her. I mean if the asteroid should hit here, you’d be safe.”
But then, the unthinkable happened. She had a stroke. I was scared, she was scared. The life insurance didn’t matter. I just wanted her better. She was drifting in and out of consciousness for about three days. She was very confused and disoriented. But for a moment, she had reached a pinnacle of clear thought and we reckoned with the idea that she might die. She told me that if she did pass on, to take the insurance money and move on with my life. She wanted me to buy the boat and truck that I had always wanted.
My mouth just fell open and the truth spilled out. “You mean the million dollars?”
“What?!” She yelled. Buzzers and bells went off on her monitors and the nurses came rushing in. “Get that idiot out of here!” She kept screaming. The nurses escorted me out and I watched through the window as they calmed her down. When she was stabilized, she motioned for me to come back in there. She reached for my arm, and squeezed it harder than any teacher ever did. “I’m not going anywhere, you moron! I now have a new reason to live! Get out of here!”
I walked out scared, shaken and a little bit ashamed of myself. I couldn’t sleep all night. I went to see her the next morning, bringing her fresh cut flowers. It made her smile. She pulled me to her, and I leaned over, somewhat afraid, and she kissed me and told me that she loved me. That she forgave me. I told her that I loved her too.
Soon, she was out of the hospital and back home cooking me dinner. As I was eating, I happened to notice the empty bottle of Lysol on the kitchen counter.
“What’re you looking at?” She asked.
“When did we run out of Lysol?”
“Today.” She said. “I had to use Lysol because I forgot that I had used all of the Pine Sol.”
I went ahead and finished my stew as she ate her salad. “What the heck.” I thought to myself. After dinner, I went outside and pondered the events of the last several days, leaving me confused to say the least. I looked up at the moon and stars. I walked to my truck and grabbed my binoculars, carried them to a dark spot in the yard and began to scan the night sky.
“Where are you?”
©2012 By Del Banks