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  • When Bridget’s cancer developed Cliff perched by her bedside and she’d whisper through subtle exasperation that the flower beds needed watering. She shooed him outside every morning with a delicate hand to tend to the flower gardens out back.
    “You just certainly aren’t keeping me alive anymore dear. We both know it. My flowers though- please darling, give them life.” She told him.
    “Is it that bad, love? Do you feel it that deep?” Cliff asked while holding onto her cold fingers that once sifted the dirt and parted the worms.
    “Please, the flowers need you. When I go I am going to go and you might not be standing by my side.” Cliff made his way towards the back screen door and headed for the hose. The water dripped down the cracked cement foundation beneath the beige siding under the kitchen window. During Bridget’s last few weeks Cliff found himself, at her request, kneeling in the damp morning dirt; glowing as it dried under the April sun. He was a husband who would do anything for his wife.
    As he pinched away the wilting mums, he started to feel somehow closer to the passing of his wife. Her life was dirty hands reaching for the kitchen faucet while he made tomato sandwiches, the crust not pinched but cropped off to both of their likings. The house on Lancaster Drive sat up in the Connecticut Hills, a half hour drive from the city where the downtown avenues flooded with early morning traffic. In the hills, Cliff and Bridget’s house nestled in its foundation since 1945 and in between Hemingway readings Cliff slowly kept up with repairs. He needed only the old painter’s ladder from the garage to reach the gutters. The one bedroom house was comfortable in its old foundation.
    Cliff’s soul was deep in a reverence for Bridget that rooted his wrinkling bending body to hers like the tulips in the backyard growing- an investment through love. It was always Bridget’s past time to mix the soil and make something come up in the spring. In the summers Cliff followed her frail aging body across the backyard from the striped hammock between two oaks. He’d lay there for consecutive seasons of bloom reading Hemingway not for the first time.
    The morning soon came when Cliff carried his coffee to the curtained off portion of the living room where Bridget’s first concern was always the garden. Like the sudden growth that came with every new season to their little yard and went away with the winter’s frost, Bridget went. The live in nurse was entirely silent while looking at Cliff and in return he didn’t make a sound. The passing of Bridget he knew would be quiet, the presence of a life evolved over time into complete nothingness. The beauty of a woman he loved all his life suddenly over powered by the nasty confinement of disease. There he would stand for the rest of his time, alone fumbling through memories he could no longer hold on to.
    Cliff knew that the seeds could be the sudden return of everything that had passed that season with Bridget. He developed an understanding of the seasons and the filth of the dirt’s ability to sprout wild beautiful things. He knew that if the tulips, mums, and roses didn’t come through that it would be the ultimate passing of all things. Somehow Bridget was taken away and the ground’s inability to make new would certainly leave Cliff unsettled. It would become too much of a realization that life, all life, was come and go.
    In early May Cliff made separations of piles of seeds in his hands. He was going to plant only Bridget’s favorites and on an early Friday morning he knelt on his knees near the hardened flower bed and he reasoned in his head why winter gave death to beauty and how spring was always the rebirth. He placed the seeds down in the dirt as the fear of an eminent loneliness filled him. It was the kind of loneliness that he knew never existed in his lifelong partnership with Bridget; but one with the potential to grow within him after the death of her.
    As the empty hammock swayed and the water trickled in a slow rain from the watering can over the seeds, Cliff thought in the moment, that perhaps his days were just as numbered, as numbered as Bridget’s became as she lay in bed, her jaw bone defining her face more and more. When the winter made its most absolute departure with the onslaught of warm weather days, Cliff spent more time in the garden and colors began to show through the dirt. Bridget was still very much alive- her roots in the hills a full presence through the light afternoon breeze. The time change gave Cliff extra light and more time with himself and he found himself accompanied not by solitude, but Bridget’s spirit.
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