This is an excerpt from a book of ultra-short fiction I’m writing.

Gene spent all of the time he could by the bedside of his wife of, well, his wife of all the years he could remember. Esther had suffered, and dissolved, bit by bit since the stroke first took her speech three years prior. Then it was a a hip fracture, then another stroke and a heart attack. Her kidneys died then, and she received dialysis a while until the day her intestines were shocked by a low blood pressure and then they died too. Gene held her hand all the way until her last breath slipped out the next day, lovingly refusing any other efforts to prolong the life he knew was ending. And oddly, he felt something slip out of himself.

None of Gene’s doctors understood what had happened. He did not set out to quit, or to become ill. He was not depressed, or angry. He was not bitter. He did not scream at God, but thanked him every day. He simply was less. Although it would not show up on the scale immediately, he knew that he felt less substantial.

But his family thought that he needed medicine, and took him for pills. He took the pills to make them happy, but had no more strength, or interest, than before. And he went to the therapist as they asked, but continued to become weak and sleepy. He sat in the chair, by the chair where Esther had spent so many years with him, and he slept in sweet dreams of peace, until someone else dragged him off to the hospital, to the doctor’s office.

His heart began to pump erratically and he was often dizzy. So he went to the cardiologist where, using sound waves (which he had used to locate German submarines), they found that his heart was pumping far less than it should.

‘Interesting,’ was all he could say. And he thanked the children and grandchildren for their love and concern towards him. And he was always gentle to them when they had meals together, or reunions, or when they came to cheer him up. But he was not without cheer. He was simply without her.

One day, the family was called because he was found in the yard by a neighbor. He had fallen in the night and was not found until morning. He had suffered his own heart attack and survived.  But all he could say was, ‘bless her heart, this is what she felt!’  And he felt, deep inside, that they were still sharing things, even if the timing was (temporarily) out of synchronization.

His heart, barely beating, grew less capable. And he smiled through shortened breath. And as daughters and sons and nephews and nieces swirled around, only one granddaughter understood. She smiled at him and winked from the far corner. He had confided in her, and only her.

He was dying, and would die, not for lack of passion, not for depression, not even so much for emotional loss as for the fact that only a half of him remained. He was not strong enough to continue as only half of the whole.  He knew that he was the remaining fragment of ‘what God hath joined together.’

And his little grandchild wiped away tears of joy as Grandpa Gene left to find the rest of himself.

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