Gerry's New Lease On Living

by Scarlett O'Cheesecake - Date: 2007-02-02 - Word Count: 880 Share This!

Gerry arrived at the assisted living wing of the multi-tasking facility for the warehousing of the aging with an expectancy reminiscent of the first day he went to school - excited, optimistic, but a tad apprehensive. He was a shadow of his former robust self - not as tall, not as much hair and now, instead of a deep auburn, it was ten different variations of salt and pepper. His purposeful stride was shortened, somewhat tentative, but - and he prided himself on this: he did not shuffle. That is, not yet. On some days the gold band he'd worn for almost 60 years fit snugly but on others, it slid around, a reminder that the day before he had drunk enough water, a good sign, one to emulate.

The lady who put that ring on his finger was gone; she slipped away - two years ago? Or was it last month? Gerry couldn't remember. But he remembered her. Bernice. Bernie Baby. Beautiful Bernice. Heads turned when she walked by. His had snapped. He never tired of looking at her. When her body said she was an old woman, her eyes said otherwise. Those dark chocolate eyes with the golden flecks, the eyes he swam into, the eyes that spoke to him when the tubes made it impossible for her to communicate, the eyes that begged for peace, the eyes that for all their life together repeatedly declared, "I love you, Gerry. I love you."

His new home was a studio apartment, the living area large enough to swing a couple of cats. Compared to what he was used to, the bedroom made him think of a monk's cell, and he chuckled because as best as he could remember, he'd never seen a monk's cell, and before he met Bernice, he'd never conducted himself like a monk. Being faithful to Bernice was easy. He honored his promise to keep himself only unto her as long as they both lived. Now his life was divided into two compartments - With Bernice and Without Bernice. At his new home, one of the many women residents he met was a saucy little widow with faded red hair. After cradling Bernice for all those years, especially after she became skin and bones, the little widow's plump figure was rather invigorating. His daughter who visited often enough to suspect one of her father's relationships was not platonic, asked him what it was like to bed a woman other than his wife, someone he wasn't in love with. "Dad," she said, "you're having recreational sex with this widow."

Gerry looked her square in the face and said, "Daughter, at my age, any sex is recreational!"

To Gerry, the apartment's most attractive feature was a utilitarian galley kitchen, with a pass-through to a dining counter. Here Gerry could putter and experiment and forget he was a resident in one of those old folks places, designed to accommodate the body's changing needs, decorated with artificial cheerfulness, a failed attempt to deny the approach of the inevitable.

Within a week, Gerry's apartment became the most visited. Almost every day he baked - muffins for the morning, or for afternoon a plate of homemade cookies, brownies, or tarts. During the evenings, visitors had a choice of teas and sweets and always lively conversation, sometimes a game of cards, or reading aloud from one of Gerry's many books. He still had a driver's license and some days two or three rode with him to a mall or a restaurant or to the movies and occasionally a play. In appreciation of his hospitality, his new friends brought gifts - hanging plants, original artwork, a handmade throw, decorative pillows, and small appliances and other cooking aids that included a growing collection of baking pans and utensils. The apartment's antiseptic look vanished.

Most excursions included stops at bookstores where after leafing through several cookbooks, Gerry usually purchased one or two. "One of these days" he exclaimed, "I'll get it right! I'll serve you the best damn cheesecake you've ever tasted!" Interest in his cheesecake experiments mounted. "I think I've almost got it!" he said. But then he reported that the filling was too firm or the filling was too soft or the flavor was off or the crust was too short or not short enough.

His friends tried to bolster his spirits. "Too soft? Then serve it with a spoon!"

Finally, he admitted defeat. His friends commiserated with him. "But," he said, "stop in this evening because I guarantee you will not be disappointed."

And they weren't. A tray of small, individual cheesecakes in assorted flavors melted away any hints of senility or peevishness. "This is perfect!" everyone exclaimed. "You rascal! You've done it! Congratulations!"

"I can't claim credit for this," Gerry said. "I ordered it online yesterday from a website in Texas and FedEx delivered it this afternoon."

His friends paid no attention. They didn't care who made the mini cheesecakes or where they came from. They were too busy sampling each other's choices.

"Oh, you've got to taste this one! It's positively divine!"

From opposite sides of the room, Gerry and the little widow with the faded red hair smiled a silent signal that both understood. They thought no one noticed when they slipped out the door. That's because they couldn't see their friends' smiles and winks.

Scarlet O'Cheesecake has been writing and eating desserts longer than most. In her day, she was a bit of a dish herself. More of her stories and delicious cheesecake can be found at www.cheesecakestogo.bizn
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