Monday, May 5, 2014

On a mission

    I met Frank today--an impish, ninety-something year-old man who lives down the street.      
   Frank arrived on my doorstep in the afternoon with a bunch of flowers, a box of chocolates, and a cane. 
     He handed me the flowers and chocolates and said, "How are you doin' baby doll?" 
      I laughed and said, "I'm good. Thank you for these." Being a widow, I've become used to odd, unannounced gifts.
     He said, "I have to ask, what's your name again?" 
     I said, "Megan Twiddy." 
     He said, "How could I forget such a great name? I'm Frank." 
     We shook hands. 
     Frank said, "I see you've put your house on the market." 
     "Yeah. Mm hmm," I said. 
     Frank abruptly asked, "How old was he?" 
     I knew he meant my late husband. "Thirty-nine," I said. 
     He said, "I'm sorry, baby doll. It's just not right that he died so young. Ahh. Not right." Frank took my free hand, squeezed it, and held on. "Don't sell the house," he said. "Don't leave. I've been thinking, if we got hitched, you wouldn't have to go." He was serious, possibly distressed, but then smiled. He was clearly pleased with his idea. 
     I laughed, "No, Frank--"
     But Frank's momentum carried him through. He made some jokes about WWII and not being able to get down on one knee anymore, and then, standing there on my front stoop, asked me to marry him. "Marry me, baby doll," is what he said. 
     I said, "No, Frank. I don't even know you!" 
   He said, "No? It's because I'm ninety, isn't it? Let me tell you, besides my knees, everything still works." I think he winked. 
   I made a "I don't want to know" face. But Frank kept looking at me with this mischievous look. So I invited him inside. 
     We sat at the dining room table. I set out two glasses of water. Frank told me about his 5 and a half years in the army during WWII. He recounted his military timeline step by step. Basic training. Touring the US. More training in Tennessee. Traveling to England. France. Meeting Patton. Being led by Patton. Horseback riding. Hungary. Japan. France. The Battle of the Bulge. "I was in the 28th Infantry Division, you know. The 28th," he said. 
     I don't know. I've never been good with military history or dates.
   Frank talked about readjusting to civilian life after August, 1945.  He said, "I almost married a girl from Michigan. Would've been the biggest mistake of my life."
     I said, "I'm from Michigan."
    He talked about meeting his wife and being married for 66 years. He watched her die. He knew somehow that I had watched my husband die too. Frank asked me about me, about my work. He asked if he would have to fight anyone for my hand. 
     I said, "No, because I'm not going to marry you." 
    Frank relented then and asked, "Well, can we eat some of these chocolates?" 
    We ate the whole box of chocolates. Frank preferred the caramels and creams. I liked the nuts. 
     Frank invited me to Saturday dinner. 
    I told him I would be with my boyfriend. Frank didn't like hearing that at all and had some things to say about it. But, in the end, he invited me to dinner anyway. 
     "Just give me an hour's notice," he said. 
     I thanked Frank for everything. I told him I had to go meet a former student at the record store. 
     Frank said, "Records! Oh, baby doll. Now you're talking."