As I walk into the room, Ann sits by the window of her bedroom overlooking the vast ocean. Ann aged 60 years, tall, elegant and as beautiful as the first day I met her, does not turn to greet me or show any acknowledgement of my presence. Instead she continues to glare out onto the calm Atlantic ocean while blankly asking me if it is time for her dinner. I gently walk across the room, drag the soft velvet chair next to hers and explain that no, dinner will be later. Ann then asks, ‘Well who are you then? And what are you doing here?” I gently reach out my hand, holding onto hers I relax back into my chair and comment on the beautiful winter glaze. I could see the sun reflecting in her eyes. “Do you not remember me Ann? Do you not remember the day we met back in 1972?”
It was Christmas day 1972. I had been travelling around Australia for the previous six months. I had just secured a job with a newspaper company in Sydney and out of pity my new boss had invited me to spend Christmas day with his family. If he had not done so I would have been completely alone. His family had made me feel very welcome but by 2pm I knew I was beginning to overstay my welcome so I thanked them for their kindness. As I walked away from the house my heart sank. I thought of my family back home in Ireland. I thought of my Mother and her tears as I set off on my new journey. She asked me if I would be returning for Christmas. I thought of my Father and his work load on the farm during this harsh time of the year and my younger brother and sister who always looked for my help and support and the odd few pound here and there. I could picture my empty chair at the dinner table and wished with all my heart i was home for Christmas.
You on the other hand had been in Sydney for 3 months, had secured a full time position in the general hospital as a nurse and you were living life to the full. I can still see you as clear as day, with your red swimsuit and your white floppy sun hat. Your long, black curly hair was blowing in the summer breeze as you continued to be the life and soul of the Irish Christmas beach party. Your smile that day lifted my spirit as you kindly invited me to join in the party.
That was the first day I met you and from that day forward you continued to light up my life. That day I fell in love and I continued to pursue you. Showing up outside the hospital, unexpectedly bumping into you and showing up on your doorstep until I finally won your heart. As you said yourself, you had to give in to the “harassment.” Am I not glad I didn’t give up? That summer we traveled Australia together. Your beauty, charm and intelligence helping us to make life long friends along the way.
On the 25th of December the following year I took you back to the beach where we met and asked you to be my wife. We returned to Ireland later on that year and you stole the hearts of all of my family. Your parents welcomed me with open arms. We settled back into life in the west of Ireland and on Inismor island the following Christmas eve, we became man and wife. “For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, all the days of our lives we will be by each others side.” Nine months later our first son Mark was born and September of the following year Aoife arrived. You displayed nothing but commitment for our children. You shaped them into the wonderful young adults they are today. You committed your life to your family. Nothing was too good for our children. You thought them how to love, you encouraged their education and you showed them all that you could in the world.
Its now Christmas eve 2012, our 38th wedding anniversary. If I could go back to that Christmas day on the beach in 1972 I would not change one minute of my life. I have enjoyed and cherished every moment of my time spent with you. You completed my life you made me all that I am and I continue to love you more and more each day. The doctors say you have alzheimer’s but I like to think that some days you chose to take a day or two off, just to relax, some time to yourself. Whatever its called I’ll be here, I continue to pursue or in your own word’s harass you to return to me. When you come back I’ll always be here and while you’re away I’ll be here waiting. Mark and Aoife will be arriving home from Australia this afternoon to spend Christmas here in Galway with us.
Ann turns to me, her face full of confusion. She begins to smile and a tear drops from her eye. Her confusion quickly turns to excitement as she begins to realize how little time she has to prepare for yet another Christmas day together.