My friend Bill passed away this weekend. I’ve known him my whole life and there’s a lonely spot now that wasn’t there before. But Bill was in his 90s, had recently broken a hip, and was ready to go. He had, as a matter of fact, been ready to go since May 18, 2008, when his wife Mae passed away. That was when the man who’d always played cards wouldn’t play anymore because he didn’t have his partner. It was when, even when he was flirting with you—and Bill always flirted—tears would well in his eyes and you’d know he really only wanted to be with “Shorty DeHaven.” DeHaven was Mae’s maiden name and he called her Shorty. She called him honey.
Mae was pretty. Always. And she was girly in a way most of us never manage, or maybe we do and it just doesn’t look that good on us. The last time I saw her was at church on Sunday morning either a week or two weeks before she died—I can’t remember which—and she had on makeup and jewelry. And her eyes sparkled. Bill’s did, too, when he looked at her.
I write love stories. I’ve been asked a lot of times why I do. People scoff at them sometimes, laugh at the idea of Happily Ever After. They call stories like mine escapist fiction, fantasy fiction, pulp, trash, and some other things I’ve probably forgotten. But those people didn’t know Mae and Bill. Maybe they don’t know people whose eyes still sparkle when they look at each other and who still call each other honey after 67 years. If they did, they’d understand why without asking.
Bill left a lot of lonely spots in people when he left us. He also left a lot of us so much richer for having known him. Whenever I think of him, it will be with laughter. And I will know that he and Shorty DeHaven are having their Happily Ever After.