"How ya' doin''" the youngster asked...a girl I'd never seen..."you're lookin' pretty good for a guy your age."
"I'm on the 'final chapter'," I surprised her, "of my life"...and not that long before my final page!"
She paused for a just moment to assess my curt remarks, clearly unprepared for what I'd said.
"Every friend I've had in here," I added to my rant, "including some much younger, is now dead!"
Only there to clean my room, her startled eyes suggested quips like mine were foreign to her mind,
Leaving her uneasy, so - in deference to my guilt - I threw the kid a few less morbid kind!
"The food here's really good," I started..."most the time at least...especially on the weekends...they're the best...
But - just in case the backup chef is cooking I make sure to keep a bunch o' goodies in my chest!
"That there highboy dresser's filled with most the clothes I own, but - safely stashed inside its upper drawer
Are awesome snacks of every species, pret' near all I'd need to - if I chose to - open up a store!"
Now I had her chuckling, "You're a character, alright," she giggled, as she moved to where I sat.
"Your name's Gus," she added, "as she gathered up my sheets...it's great to fin'ly meet you...my name's Pat."
"Nice to meet you, too, my dear, but...how does - ''fin'ly meet you" - fit in with our meeting?" I inquired.
"I think we're - 'connected'," she replied to my surprise, "and based on what I learned when I was hired...
"Those who've lived in Pinkerton for all - or most - their lives...the local ones, who never moved away,
And tend to share a common past are kept in neighboring rooms...melding lovely mem'ries day to day,
"And you - a lifetime resident - are known by some your age for something rather touching that you did.
I was told you gave the girl you planned to -- and did marry -- back when you were just a little kid -
"A small bouquet of dandelions, and, they say your word - that - on her 18th birthday, you'd propose!
Turns out that young lady was my granny's - brother's - daughter...but you're the only one who truly knows."
"That's a fact," I countered, "and she obviously answered 'yes'...but how does that connect the two of us?"
"Well...if her name - her maiden name - was Duncan - first name Sarah... that... combined with your name being Gus...
"Means that we're - 'connected'...sorta, you know...fam'ly-tied...though several times removed, and - if I'm right -
I'd be thrilled to talk with you...fill in little voids...so how about, when I get off tonight,
"I run home and grab a couple albums and some letters...some go back as far as '28!
Maybe we can figure out if what I think is true! Wha-da-ya' say to that...we got a date?"
"I'd be glad to chat with you," I answered, "and - you're right...we tied the knot in 1934,
But what we didn't know, of course, was - five years down the road, we'd help our allies fight a distant war -
"And though I'm proud I did my part to help our foreign friends from 1939 to '42,
Leaving Sarah weeping as I left for eastern Europe was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.
"She wrote - and sent me photographs - once a week at least, keeping me abreast of how things were,
And I, of course, when possible, to meet her expectations, would mail - how I was doing - back to her.
"It's tough to miss a loved one who has, sadly, passed away...but I think missing one who hasn't died
Can be even rougher, and...to put her fears to rest, sometimes... when I wrote her back...I lied!"
"I'll be back at 7:30," Pat explained her plan, "then you and I can talk 'til who knows when."
"That sounds great," I countered, "this is really nice of you, and even though we know we can't be kin,
"I'll be tickled pink, young lady...even if we wind up sorting through your pile o' stuff 'til dawn.
'Cause you, my dear, I'm betting, are the closest thing I've got... and now that all my closest friends are gone...
"I've been wond'rin' who I'll leave my greatest asset to."
"And what, pray tell," she asked me, "might that be?"
"If...as I suspect," I said, "you're anything like Sarah...if and when you meet a guy like me...
"Grab him...if he's single, 'cause it's plain as day to me that you're a precious jewel among your peers!
That, my dear's, my - 'greatest asset'...super wise advice...our marriage lasted sixty-seven years!"
She brushed away a tiny teardrop trickling down her cheek, looked me in the eye and sweetly smiled.
Everything about her seemed delightfully familiar, leaving me surprised and quite beguiled.
Blessed with Sarah's tender smile and gentle hazel eyes, and, even when she laughed, it seemed the same...
But spotting - 'Ms. Patricia Duncan' - stitched across her blouse would prove to me this gal - who's maiden name
Matched the very clan by whom my lovely wife was spawned - was, no doubt, an in-law...sure as hell,
And even if she wasn't, she'd already won my heart, and I was hoping she, by now, could tell
That proof, for me, was not required. I relished her assertion, and saw her as a teen just starting out,
Somewhat frail and vulnerable, like Sarah once had been, when coping with her fears and constant doubt,
Won'dring: Will he make it back?...while I was asking me: Will I ever hold my love again?
"I'll be waiting anxiously 'til 7:30, Pat, and if our research runs 'til - who knows when,
...now go to "Connected" part 2 to see the ending of this slightly-too-long
Copyright © Mark Stellinga | Year Posted 2022