Howard stepped off the city bus, straightened his jacket, and limped into the nursing home.
“I used to do that job,”he told me, pointing his head at the bus. “Before I retired.”
His wife, Mildred,had been transferred to the nursing home a few months ago.
Howard spent his days with Mildred. “I get my breakfast at the Oaks then take the bus here. The last bus runs back to the Oaks right after dinner so I can eat lunch and dinner with Mildred before heading back. ”
Later Howard sat with Mildred at a round of bocce balls, a game a little like shuffleboard but using only balls. He took his turn, aiming his ball at the target. “Turn left. More!” He directed his ball. “Aw, it doesn’t listen very well.”
Then he gently pressed Mildred’s ball into her gnarled hand. “Roll the ball. Knock that blue ball out of here. ”
Mildred stared at the floor. After he urged her two more times, she lifted her head and dropped the ball. It listed to the left and stopped.
“Pretty good,” Howard said. “Maybe our team will win.”
Later he pulled out matching red cowboy hats. Mildred wore hers all day without saying a word. In fact, she didn’t say much any day.
But Howard came every day.
“We’ve been married 15 years,” Howard told me one afternoon.
Long enough to cleave for a lifetime.