Volume 34, Number 4

The Bell and Basket

Jonathan B. Ferrini

A young lady on a bicycle with a basket filled with flowers announces her arrival by ringing the bell attached to the handlebars.

She gently taps on my window to say “hello.” Her smile is wide, happy and reminds me of the day I saw my wife cradling our newborn daughter wrapped in a pink blanket. It’s a special smile, a gift from women any man is fortunate to witness once, and if blessed, more than once in a lifetime.

I’ll find a flower wrapped with a ribbon on my porch awaiting me.

I watch the young lady gracefully ride away reminding me of my daughter learning to ride her bike with fear turning to courage. The blue bike was relegated to the corner of the garage gathering dust as she became ensconced with high school, cheerleading, sports and dating. Later came college followed by a brilliant career, marriage and children. A boy and girl.

My daughter’s children grew up healthy and successful, each married, now with children of their own; the procession of life culminating in my daughter’s divorce. It pained my wife and myself to see a marriage end but as parents learn, it’s best to let the birds fly and make their own nests without interference.

It’s a terrible reality for a parent to outlive their child. My beloved lost to cancer. It was fortunate my wife of fifty years didn’t live long enough to feel the unimaginable sorrow. I hope they are together, somewhere.

The sporadic visits from grandchildren slowly diminished and were replaced by phone calls on holidays and later only an occasional email.

I assuage my loneliness by wiping the dust from the bicycle as I remember my wife bathing our baby and my wrapping the teenage swim-team captain in a towel after a successful contest. I oiled each moving part of the old bicycle as if spoon-feeding our baby. I finish with a ring of the bell as if her voice is saying “hello daddy” from beyond.

The bell’s ring reminds me of the alarm clock sounding each weekday for forty years alerting me to report dutifully to my job where I seldom missed a day. Each morning began blissfully as I was greeted by my beloved wife with a kiss and first cup of coffee sending me on my way to the job at the same plant I retired from.

The red, white and blue tassels stemming from the handlebars resemble the flags raised in honor, and bugle taps played at the VFW in memory of the many friends I left behind on foreign shores.

The young lady’s smile reminds me of returning home from work to the precious smile and kiss of my darling wife with dinner ready inside the dining room of her prized three-bedroom, two-bath home with attached two-car garage. Our first and only home.

Each ring of the bell and tap on my window provokes a struggle to get up from my recliner or out of bed so that once, I may greet her and become acquainted. She’s too swift for this old man but never forgets to leave my beautiful botanical gift on the porch; rain or shine, winter, spring, summer and fall.

Today, I heard her tap on my window and was fleet of foot, managing to open the door and find the beautiful young lady extending her hand. I held her hand and followed, reminded of walking my daughter to school, down the wedding aisle and gripping her fragile fingers one final time before she passed away.

“How long was his hospice stay?”

“Shorter than most. He let go.”

“He died with a smile. I wonder what he was thinking?”