Do you love Fresno? Do you love art? If yes, the... Enter Now
As soon as I pushed through the front door
, I caught the aroma of bacon wafting from the kitchen, a scent that reminded me of our earlier life. When there were children in the house, Jane usually prepared a family breakfast, but our differing schedules in recent years had brought them to an end. It was yet another change that had somehow overtaken our relationship. Jane poked her head around the corner as I padded through the living room. She was already dressed and wearing an apron. I was still reliving the kiss in the driveway when I got in the car to start my day. After swinging by the grocery store, I drove to Creek side. Instead of heading straight to the pond, however, I entered the building and walked to Noah’s room. As always, the smell of antiseptic filled the air. Multicoloured tiles and wide corridors reminded me of the hospital, and as I passed the entertainment room, I noticed that only a few of the tables and chairs were occupied. Two men were playing checkers in the corner; another few were watching a television that had been mounted on the wall. A nurse sat behind the main desk, her head bent, impervious to my presence. The sounds of television followed me as I made my way down the hall, and it was a relief to enter Noah’s room. Unlike so many of the guests here, whose rooms seemed largely devoid of anything personal, Noah had made his room into something he could call his own. A painting by Allie—a flowering pond and garden scene reminiscent of Monet—hung on the wall above his rocking chair. On the shelves stood dozens of pictures of the children and of Allie; others had been tacked to the wall. His cardigan sweater was draped over the edge of the bed, and in the corner sat the battered roll top desk that had once occupied the far wall of the family room in their home. The desk had originally been Noah’s fathers, and its age was reflected in the notches and grooves and ink stains from the fountain pens that Noah had always favoured. I knew that Noah sat here frequently in the evenings, for in the drawers were the possessions he treasured above all else: the hand-scripted notebook in which he’d memorialized his love affair with Allie, his leather-bound diaries whose pages were turning yellow with age, the hundreds of letters he’d written to Allie over the years, and the last letter she ever wrote to him. There were other items, too—dried flowers and newspaper clippings about Allie’s shows, special gifts from the children, the edition of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman that had been his companion throughout World War II. Perhaps I was exhibiting my instincts as an estate lawyer, but I wondered what would become of the items when Noah was finally gone. How would it be possible to distribute these things among the children? The easiest solution would be to give everything to the children equally, but that posed its own problems. Who, for instance, would keep the notebook in their home? Whose drawer would house the letters or his diaries? It was one thing to divide the major assets, but how was it possible to divide the heart? The drawers were unlocked. Although Noah would be back in his room in a day or two, I searched them for the items he would want with him at the hospital, tucking them under my arm. Compared to the air-conditioned building, the air outside was stifling, and I started to perspire immediately.