|By Riley McDavid|
“He’s leaving,” Mrs. McD said. For all the sadness in her voice she might as well have said, “Our cat of 15 years died” or “The IRS says we owe them ten thou.”
I went to the window. Indeed he was about to leave. The “he” was Arnie. We have called him Arnie all these years, but his full name is Joshua Bateman Arnold. He was born just outside of Montpelier, Vermont, and after twenty-nine years in Orange County, California, he was going back home.
“To die?” I asked him when he first broke the news to us.
“No way!” he said. “To live!” Arnie is a widower whose wife passed away about five years ago. On more than a few occasions he swore he would never marry again, most recently when we conned him into going to Age Well’s Seniors’ Prom with our golfing friend Winifred. A wife, he claimed, would make him do ridiculous things like pick up his dirty clothes and not let three days go by without washing the dishes.
But then one day in November his phone rang, and the voice at the other end said, “Josh?”
“Yeah. Who is this?” Nobody had called him Josh in decades, so he was a bit befuddled.
“It’s me, Mary Jane.”
“Mary Jane who?” he said.
“Mary Jane Winslow, you old doofus. I sat right in front of you in Miss Eldridge’s eighth grade English class and you always teased the dickens out of me. You don’t remember me? “
After a moment he did remember, and what he remembered, he later told us, was the cutest, liveliest brunette on the face of the planet.
“I was in love with her. But I didn’t have a chance. She and Bobby Chase were inseparable.” After high school she married Bobby and together they raised a small family right there in Montpelier. Arnie eventually became a long-haul truck driver, and after one cross-country trip to southern California in the middle of January, he decided he’d had enough of snow. He informed the trucking company that henceforth his home base was Orange County, CA, about 3,000 miles from Montpelier.
“I’m in Anaheim with a girlfriend,” Mary Jane told him on the phone. “We’re at Disneyland. I want you to come up and spend tomorrow with us. Will you do it?”
There was a long pause. Finally Mary Jane said, “I guess you didn’t hear. Bobby passed away last year.”
Now there was an even longer pause while Arnie tried to figure out what to do. Then, without really making a decision, he opened his mouth and said, “Sure. I’d love to go to Disneyland.”
From there things got complicated. Two days later, when it was time for Mary Jane to go home, she sent her girlfriend on without her and came down from Anaheim to visit Arnie for a couple of days. He brought her over to meet us, and even in her sixties she was still a head turner. He drove her up to L.A. for a day, they spent time in Laguna Beach, and they had dinner at several nice restaurants on the coast. When she asked what he did with his time, he took her on his Meals on Wheels route, and showed her to the Florence Sylvester Center at congregate lunchtime.
Those two days turned into a week at the end of which Arnie announced they were engaged. He put his home up for sale, and now today he was about to get behind the wheel of a rental truck loaded with many of his possessions, and he and Mary Jane would head back to Montpelier.
“I can’t imagine life without him,” Mrs McD said.
“I can’t imagine my blog without him,” I said. “He was the inspiration for so many, including a whole bunch he wasn’t even in. I guess this is le dernier blog.”
“The very last blog?”
“The very last. Let’s go over and say goodbye to Arnie.” And we did.
Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:
Captain’s Ball, March 1, 2014, 5:00 p.m. to Midnight at the beautiful Ritz Carlton, 1 Ritz Carlton Drive, Dana Point, CA. The Captain’s Ball Black Tie Gala recognizes companies or individuals who have gone above and beyond in their caring towards seniors. This event has been described as “the one Ball you don’t want to miss and best in Orange County” and has been featured in Orange Coast Magazine among other publications. Complimentary valet parking. Contact: Beth Apodaca, firstname.lastname@example.org. (949) 498-3322.