Bernice and Garry: Adventures in Paradise

The Triad
The electric arcs across the great Prongs of our Life-Triad are strong, brief and luminous. And so it is with memories. There for us to see but gone before we can touch them. (author)

Prong 1 Bernice Becomes a Champion  
Prong 2 The Dreaming Pool  
Prong 3 Grammy

“Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” Mae West

Bernice Becomes a Champion: Garry’s Scheme
Setting: Security Checkpoint, Detroit Metro Airport
Time: Four years before 911
on the way to Phoenix to join Bernice “for good”
Security Officer #1: (stretching his beefy body up to bolster his barely average stature) Sir, step over here please.
Garry: Is there a problem?
Security Officer #1: I need you to tell me what this is. (“This” was an eight pound shot-put with rubber coating to allow for indoor competition. Red in color.)
Garry: Oh, that’s a shot-put. Bought it for my girlfriend.
SO #1: Sir, I don’t know what a shot-put is. I need you to tell me exactly what this device is used for.
Garry: It’s used in athletic competition. You throw it, or “put” it. Whoever puts it farthest wins. Do you ever watch the Olympics?
SO #1: (rolling the suspicious object over in his hands) Sir, I’m going to ask you a very serious question. There is a seam in this object. Obviously sealing two halves of a container. And there is something inside this container. (shaking the orb inches from his ears) I can hear moving parts. What’s inside?
Garry: OK, let’s go with the seam first. It’s a seal for the two halves…
SO #1: Sir I know what a seam is. What I don’t know is what the seam is holding together. You need to tell me what’s inside immediately.
Garry: Shot. Like in a shotgun shell.
SO #1: Shot? As in shooting? As in gun powder and explosives? (eyebrows raised to hairline) Sir I need you to dismantle this device immediately. The airline considers it your private property. That makes you responsible for its content. Attempting to bring explosives onto an airplane is a Federal Offense. I have the right to confiscate this item. I’m advising you that failing to follow my Directive will result in your immediate arrest.
Garry: Arrest? Are you kidding me? I’m getting arrested for a shot-put? (suddenly there is a second Airport Security person taking an oblique stance less than three feet from me.)
SO #1: (to the newcomer) I have instructed this individual to dismantle. Take a look before you relinquish possession to him. (Hands hands the ball to SO #2)
SO #2: (tall, slender, not imposing. Turns the ball slowly in his hands, bringing all his powers of deduction to bear) Heavier than it looks. Dam strange thing to have in your carry-on. I’d advise you to open it like he said. Nobody needs to get arrested and nobody needs to get hurt.
Garry: (hurt, did he say hurt?) There’s no way I can take this thing apart, but I’m telling you it’s nothing but a heavily coated ball filled with…BB’s to make its weight.
SO #2: BB’s?
SO #1: BB’s! A dirty bomb! Could be filled with BB’s and God knows what else. Secure this individual and his properties. I’ll get a supervisor over here ASAP. (Walks off with exaggerated pace, speaking urgently up his sleeve.)
Garry: I hope you guys have a sense of humor. You’re gonna  need it.
SO #2: We get paid to take these things seriously. (pause) For what it’s worth, I hope you’re right.
Within minutes SO #1 returns with Supervisor, compact middle aged Afro-American woman with authority written all over her face.
Supervisor: Sir, I need to see your driver’s license. (after a brief glance, hands it back to me) Mr. Cox, I’ve been asked to take a look at your carry-on item. (looks at SO #2) This the item? Let me have a look.
SO #1:
There is something inside that thing.
Supervisor: And you think I’m going to shake it to find out?
SO #1: No mam, of course not. Should I notify the police and request bomb detection personnel?
Supervisor: This looks like a shot-put to me. Used to throw one just like it back in the day. This a shot-put Mr. Cox?
Garry: Yes mam, for my girlfriend.
Supervisor: (smiling, starts to hand it back to me then checks herself and hands it off to SO #1) You can return the item to Mr. Cox. (To me) Next time put it in your luggage.
Garry: Yes mam. (As I turn to retrieve the rest of my carry-on items I glance at the two SO’s. SO #1 is staring blankly into space. I can’t be sure but I think SO #2 just threw me a wink. Whatever, I suddenly experience an overwhelming urge to hit the restroom to check my pants for fall-out).

Bernice Becomes a Champion: The gift that keeps on giving
Setting: Phoenix @ Shadow Mountain High School track

Bernice: What in the world made you buy me a shot-put?
Garry: Well, what else do you buy a woman who has everything?
Bernice: What made you think I would want this thing.
Garry: More like I want you to have it. It’s a ploy on my part to keep you coming to all my track meets.
Bernice: Between Detroit and Phoenix I’ve already been to God knows how many of your races.  Why would you think I would stop now?
Garry: I don’t know, insecurity I guess. It’s just that I listen to my track buddies talking about their wives and how they feel about sitting around in the stands, bored, waiting for their husbands’ events. I actually heard one of their wives say, “I really don’t get what all the fuss is about. A bunch of old farts chasing around after each other. Not my idea of a good time.”
Bernice: Garry, you know I don’t like it when you compare me with other women. You love this track stuff, you’re going to do it no matter what. If it makes you feel any better, being here with you is better than being left at home.
Garry: Nice try, but I still think you need a personal buy-in.
Bernice: OK, but why this?
Garry: Because you’re a natural. You’re dirt strong and you’re athletic. I think you could be really good at this. Hell, I think you could be a star.
Bernice: Well you drug me over to this…what do you call this I’m standing in?
Garry: The throwing circle.
Bernice: So show me what to do with this cannonball thing.
Garry: I thought you’d never ask.
Due to my lifelong love affair with track and field, I know the techniques required for most events. For Bernice I chose the old-school, back to the foul line, bend, take three gathering steps forward, turn and release approach. After several impeccable demonstration throws, Bernice has seen enough.
Bernice: Look, I don’t see myself doing all that. Why can’t I just stand sideways, hunker down and come up throwing?
Garry: I guess you could. But you won’t throw it as far that way.
Bernice: Just give me the ball and let me try.
She takes about five throws in the manner she described. After each throw I cheer her on and offer priceless critique.
Bernice: You know what? This isn’t going to work. If I’m going to get into this, I need to get a real coach. Like I did with my race-walking.
She did just that. In her search she came in contact with the great ASU middle distance runner Cliff McKenzie. Cliff recommended a young woman who was currently doing throwing events for the ASU track squad. After a couple months training Bernice was ready for the circuit.

Bernice Becomes a champion: Deja Vous all over again
A postcard from when we were still getting to know each other back in Detroit
Dear Garry,
Having a wonderful visit with the kids. Drove to the (Oregon) coast and down the beaches. Very beautiful and green & lush. weather finally turned warm and & sunny & I’m enjoying that. Tomorrow going to Seattle & then LA. I’m relaxing a lot & exercising too little & enjoying it all. Miss you
Love Bernice

Once more with feeling
Bernice: OK now you’re going to have to help me work this thing out. What’s your grand plan again?
Garry: Well, it’s a triumvirate. First weekend we do a National track and field meet in Canada. Second weekend we do a National meet in Spokane, Wash. The third we do an International meet in  Track Town USA, Eugene, Oregon.
Bernice: I’ll never make three weeks. Let’s skip Canada. So it’s Spokane and Eugene, OK?
Garry: I can live with that.
Bernice: Good, because I already figured out how we could do the two meets in the states.
Garry: So you don’t really need my help?
Bernice: Of course I do. Well, maybe I just need you to listen to my plan. But I do need you to go along with it. Heart and soul. The only way I want to go.
Garry: The only way we should ever go.
Bernice: Right! So here’s how I see it. We’ll start in Valencia (Ca), Sandi and Jody and the girls (Nicole & Kelly). Spend two, maybe three days with them. Then we’ll drive up the Coast Highway to Portland Oregon and spend time with Patti, Patrick and Garrett. From there we hit the road for Seattle to see Ellen and Zach. Then Spokane, then Eugene. I’ll have to call the girls and see just how much time we can spend with each of them.
Garry: Wow! This is a dream come true. The great Pacific Coast Road Trip!
Bernice: You’ll love the Oregon Coast. It’s beautiful beyond words.
Garry: Pretty sure we’ll both love it. Thinking about that postcard you sent me. But you know what’s going through my mind? California Redwoods. The great Redwood Forest. Wanted to see them since I was a kid and read this western comic book where the bad guys were holed up inside a big ole redwood.
Bernice: I think what I have to do is get a tighter time frame. So we have time to play it by ear. Stop wherever it suits our fancy. I’ll get on the details. You just make sure you do your job.
Garry: Which is what, exactly?
Bernice: Get your car ready. I’m not sure if your little Escort can handle the trip.
Garry: Little Red can handle it, trust me.
Bernice: Can I tell you something?
Garry: Anything.
Bernice: I’m nervous about the track meets. I bet those national girls are awfully good. Will there be a lot of people watching?
Garry: Oh yeah. Lotta people watching you kick booty. (a sly grin on her face?)
Center stage in this Odyssey was the galvanizing effect Bernice’s audacious choice of event had on her family. Every daughter, every son-in-law and every grand child insisted not only on a demonstration of her prowess, but also the chance to have a go at it themselves. Back yards teemed with kids and grown folk throwing, grunting, cheering and jeering. The part she seemed to enjoy most was the inevitable teasing she got.

“Are you sure you can throw far enough to clear your toes?”
“Grammy, are you going to wear one of those tight spandex outfits?”
“Bernice you gotta learn to grunt. You don’t even squeak?”
“Are you sure anybody your age actually does this?”

Through it all she smiled and laughed and lapped up the attention.

USATF National Masters Track and Field Competitions Spokane Washington
Masters Track & Field athletes compete in five year age groups. Bernice was in the 65-69 group.
Images: Bernice in her que waiting for her fourth attempt. Ordinarily a fast starter, she is out of the money at this point. Her usual stoicism in the ring has been replaced by a constant shifting of weight from foot to foot, a head down glower, and some serious deep breathing.
Event Marshal: Wagner up!
Images: With the slightest of nods, Bernice pivots off a foot shift and moves deliberately into the throwing circle. Into her standing position. A look out across the throwing vectors. A beat, and into her crouch. Deeper than usual. Locks her throwing elbow into her side. Tighter than usual. Free arm reaching skyward, straighter than usual. Up hard out of the crouch and the ball flies. Later Bernice would say, “I knew it was a good one. I could feel it all the way up from my toes.”

The interminable measuring wait. Finally the formal distance announcement, followed by a sizable wave of appreciation from the crowd. Bernice leaves the throwing circle with a small, satisfied grin. Ultimately the throw stands up, good for a National Silver Medal.

WAVA (now called the World Masters Championships) International Track and Field Competition Eugene Oregon
Hayward Field stadium full to capacity. Big time buzz around the shot-put venue. Some serious lady athletes chatting, back slapping, plowing through their warm ups. Even from my vantage point in the stands they seem bigger and more resolute than any ladies Bernice has gone up against thus far. Bernice herself has found a swagger I didn’t know she had. She’s strolling through the ranks of her competitors, shaking hands, laughing at somebody’s joke. Me I’m hoping she’s getting stoked  on the supercharged atmosphere because she doesn’t seem much interested in warming up.
Image: Bernice is wearing an extra large WAVA T-shirt that extends nearly to her knees. The officials start the competitors roll-call and Bernice comes out of the shirt. Holy Batman! Spandex has nothing on this girl. She has opted for a form fitting, one piece, powder blue bathing suit with aggressive white stripping. I know distance belies age to a point, but from where I stood she looked like a blond bombshell about to go off.
Image: Bernice is far enough down in the throwing order that by the time she steps into the ring I have reconciled myself to her bodacious outfit. Talk about casual. If she were carrying a book in her hand instead of a shot-put she could be strolling down a beach somewhere. She does three relaxed squats in preparation and suddenly rips through her toss in a blue blur. Her momentum leaves her standing on her tip-toes to avoid stepping over the foul line. She recovers in time to see the throw and slaps her thigh in satisfaction. Not waiting for the measurement, she steps out of the ring and gathers up her shirt. Waits for her ball. Takes it and strides through the ranks. Normal. Find a spot to rest until her next throw. Instead she continues on through the crowd, across the track, and heads up into the stands towards me.
Garry: Bernice, what the hell are you doing? (she just grins and hands me the ball) You can’t leave the competition like that. You’ll be disqualified.
Bernice: (with a shrug and a grin) That throw was good enough, I don’t need another one. If they beat it they beat it.
Garry: It was pretty damned good. Looked better than Spokane. But Sweetie, you have to tell the officials you won’t be taking another throw.
Bernice: OK, see you in a few minutes.
“That throw was good enough, I don’t need another one.” Good enough for another Silver Medal, International this time.

Partners in Paradise
When I rejoined Bernice after my 9 month sojourn in Michigan, we started our new life with a vengeance. Bernice was retired and I was the next best thing, unemployed. Better still, I was drawing unemployment from the Detroit Public School System. I was free as a bird and could pay my own way, at least for awhile. Our future was finally now.

Bernice wasted little time filling me in on the routines she had already established in my absence. Hiking with the club, regular pool days with our building 8 buddies, morning and evening walks along the golf course, and random searching for the perfect happy hour and the best Friday night fish establishment within easy driving distance. On the weekends that we didn’t do all day hikes, we would catch the latest movies. Evenings at home would start with wine or beer on the patio followed by one of Bernice’s twenty-minute dinner specials. After dinner we would read or watch a favorite TV show.

The Dreaming Pool (1)
Every day after leaving the scorching water pool deck and slogging maybe 30 meters back to the condo, we would shuck our swim-suits and lie naked in the spare bedroom. The room had a twilight ambiance created by closing the blinds to soften the blow of a raging sun. With our bodies supported by pillows and a soft carpet, we would day-dream in hushed tones content to let evening roll around whenever it felt like it. We called the room our Dreaming Pool
Bernice: Sometimes I think this is the best part of the day.
Garry: I feel like I’m on vacation.
Bernice: You are on vacation.
Garry: No, I mean like a permanent vacation. Sort of a never-ending holiday.
Bernice: You’re not planning to go back to work?
Garry: It’s in the back of my mind. Planning would be a stretch.
Bernice: Back of your mind is good. Leaves room for today. For us. (pause) You know how I’m always kidding you about being a dreamer? I don’t know why. I think it’s what I like best about you.
Garry: Are we talkin’ daydreams or lifedreams here?
Bernice: Lifedreams. The ones you’ve shared with me. Back when we were getting to know each other. Your years in the theatre, living on bread and relish sandwiches, hustling 24/7, fighting for rehearsal space, eeking money out of tiny budgets, but still bringing the show in. Your salad days. (pause) I have a confession to make. I used to daydream about those days. Used to pretend that I was part of that life.
Garry: Funny, when I was telling you all that stuff I wasn’t thinking dreams.
Bernice: I know, you were trying to impress me. And it worked. But even then I had this question in the back of my mind. Why did he stop? Why isn’t he still doing what he loved?
Garry: Well, one answer would be he liked to eat. He liked to have a roof over is head. He wanted to at least marginally take care of his kids.
Bernice: I get that. I even get that at one time you thought Adult Ed was the ideal backup plan for someone trying to make it in the theatre. But I also get that by the time we started seeing each other you had come full stop.
Garry: I don’t know full stop. But I was ready for a serious break. The whole field of performing arts is a struggle for anyone. I was starting to look at the handwriting on the wall. If I was gonna make it, I woulda already made it, that sort of thing.
Bernice: Don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you just stopped trying.
Garry: You’re starting to lose me
Bernice: No, I think I’m starting to find you. Do you remember telling me the story about you wanting to quit your lousy Babe Ruth baseball team because your manager was a drunk and the team was playing lousy and your sponsor still hadn’t come up with any uniforms?
Garry: Like it was yesterday.
Bernice: And what did you mom say?
Garry: Something like she wasn’t gonna let me quit the team because I’d never been a quitter…
Bernice: Right, she said you had never been a quitter and you never would be. So here’s what we know about you. Your dreams will never die, and quitting on them is just not in you.
Garry: So what are you saying?
Bernice: I’m saying that you’re lying here with me, a beautiful woman in a lovely condo with no financial worries. Your kids are doing good. Sayin’ maybe it’s time for us to get after your dreams. The two of us. The stars may never line up like this again.
Garry: What about your dreams?
Bernice: I’m living my dream. Doin’ everything I want, when I want to. The only thing could spoil my dream is an unhappy partner.

So I took the shot. I signed with a talent agency and found early success with a string of commercials and two Indy films. When I joined up the agency was half modeling, half talent. But early on the handwriting on the wall revealed that the money seemed to be in the modeling game. After a couple of fat years the agency fazed out the talent side of the operation altogether. I was on my own without an agent in a secondary market. Adult Ed to the rescue. In the waning moments of my film career I was invited to join a prestigious Rio Salado College Leaning Center that partnered with the ground breaking Maricopa Skills Center. I felt good about the opportunity to earn a little money while coming up with a new game plan to crack the commercial market. September 2012 I’m still working on that game plan.

The Dreaming Pool (2)
Garry: So Ms Wagner, where do you see yourself in five years?
Bernice: (eyes closed) I hear Lake Louise up in Canada is one of the most beautiful spots on earth.
Garry: I see us white-water rafting down the Colorado river.
Bernice: I don’t know. Those rapids are dangerous. I don’t swim that well.
Garry: You kidding? You swim like a fish.
Bernice: Oh right, you’re the one who doesn’t swim so well.
Garry: What about famous cities.
Bernice: OK, I’ll take famous cities for $500.
Garry: You’ll take a poke in the booty and like it.
Bernice: OK, London. I’ve always wanted to go to London.
Garry: New York City for me. Then maybe Rio de Janiero.
Bernice: I’ve already been to New York. Never had a desire to go to South America.
Garry: Fair enough. So we do London, should we add Paris to our Junket?
Bernice: No. Just London. (pause) Can I tell you what I really have been thinking about?
Garry: Please!
Bernice: Hiking the Grand Canyon.
Garry: Really?
Bernice: Really. Hike down to Phantom Ranch. Get a big steak with corn on the cob for dinner. Lay out and look up at the sky after sundown. Fat stars filling up the whole sky. Hike back out the next day. Maybe run up to Laughlin after. See a show, play some slots. (pause) Think I can do it?
Garry: Do what, hike the Grand Canyon?
Bernice: Yeah, I’ve heard it can be a rough hike. I ain’t no spring chicken.
Garry: What, Mt. Lemon wasn’t rough enough or Mt. Williams with the wind blowing our shorts off. Hell Squaw Peak is rough enough for your average thirty-year old.
Bernice: You’re right. I can do it. Guess the real question is, can you?
Garry: You’re my hiking guru. You tell me.
Bernice: Not sure I’d bet money on it, but you’re starting to get the hang of it. You got time.
Garry: I got time, meaning…
Bernice: Meaning I’ve made reservations to overnite at Phantom Ranch this coming March. I want to give Sandi (daughter) a special birthday present. Something she can share with Jody (son-in-law). Get us a nice place to stay on the Rim. The four of us do the hike. What you think?
Garry: Think you just blew me out of the water.
Bernice: I mean do you like?
Garry: I love!

Images: Hikers know that often as not climbing down a steep trail can be harder on the body than climbing up. Unfortunately Bernice proved to be a case in point. After maybe a half mile down the South Kaibab, Bernice’s knees began to hurt. At first “like the dickens” but soon “every step I took was like an icepick in my knee.” Fellow hikers noticed her plight and offered everything from ice packs to pain pills. I never knew so many hikers carried drugs. If memory serves she did avail herself of some supped up Tylenol.

What a difference some grub and beer, an evening under the stars and a good nights sleep can make. Bernice totally had her mojo back as we lit out from Phantom Ranch at 6am the next morning. Footbridge across the Colorado River and up Bright Angel Trail. At Indian Gardens we split our foursome. Jody was anxious to get into a power hike, and I felt up to the challenge. Sandi and Bernice would stay together and meet us at the rim.
Bernice: Garry, you remember your promise. When you guys get to the top, you turn right around and come back for me. You promised to push me on up if I needed it.
Garry: You got it Sweetie. Hope you won’t need it though. I’ll be pretty tired by the time I get back to you.
Turns out “pretty tired” wasn’t the half of it. Jodi was fit and forty and on a mission. He clearly meant to kill me with his pace. Later he would say, “All you had to do was tell me. I could have slowed down.” Yeah right. Like you didn’t know the old buck never asks for quarter and the young buck never grants it. I did go back for Bernice, but only after Jody and I had grabbed a shower and a snack back at the hotel.

One of the striking features of a hike up Bright Angel is the sharp contrast in weather conditions. On this day, it was balmy around the Colorado River bottom and snowing on the South Rim. By the time Jody and I started back down to meet the girls a thick fog had set in. Oncoming hikers were preceded by the colors of their caps and jackets long before their bodies jumped into visibility. I counted 16 switchbacks before I saw a bright orange nylon jacket like the one Bernice had wisely packed.  Could be her. As she slowly rose out of the mist the ball of orange grudgingly revealed a splotch of white. Bernice’s face, upturned, grim to infinity, with droplets of moisture hanging off the end of her nose. She did not smile when she recognized us.
Bernice: You said you would come back for me.
Garry: I did. I’m here.
Bernice: You should have found me a long time ago.
Jody: Bernice, what did you do with Sandi, push her off a lookout point?
Bernice: (not amused) Her back is killing her. Some young fellows offered to take her pack and wait for her at the top. She insisted I go on. You better go find her.
Garry: So babe, you still want me to push you.
Bernice: Hell yes I want you to push. You shoulda been pushing me way before now.
To her credit Bernice thanked me for the pushing she did get and admitted that for the most part she was no worse for wear. She was seventy-two years old at the time.

Memorable afternoon with Bernice and her pool girlfriends, maybe six years into Paradise:
Don’t remember whether I actually overheard this conversation or Bernice told me about it later.
GF 1: These girls today, they have so much surgery no telling how old they are.
GF 2: Not important how old you are, just what you look like.
GF 3: I wouldn’t mind a few nips and tucks. I’m such a flabby Abby.
GF 4: I just want to get rid of some wrinkles and some crows feet.
GF 5: You can do that with Botox you know.
Bernice: I don’t think I’ll bother with any of that. Garry likes me just the way I am.

GRAMMY
From daughter Ellen: (circa 2012) Here is what I can tell you about Mom and the grandkids.

She loved being a Grammy. I think more than being a mom.
 
When (son) Zach was 4 I started going to conferences 2 times a year. She would arrange her vacation time and go with us. She took care of Zach in the morning while I was at meetings and then the 3 of us would play in the afternoons.
 
Memorable trip: We went to Fort Lauderdale for Benjamin’s (Ellen’s nephew) bar mitzvah and then Mom, Zach and I went down to the Keys for a few days. We had a great time in a small hotel on the beach. I remember that it was Mothers day weekend 10 years ago, I took her to dinner at the Westin Hotel in Islamorada. We had dinner in the restaurant way up high looking out into a jungle with water on both sides watching the sun set. It was wonderful.

From daughter Patti: (circa 2012) When I think of her visits though what I remember is all the time she and Garrett sat together in the recliner and read and talked…hours each day.

Memorable trip: For Garrett’s 13th birthday, we went to Hawaii. We took a helicopter ride, went whale watching and snorkeling and then there was the adventure of the coconut. She and Patrick found a coconut on the beach. I begged them to leave it behind but they were determined to open it up. Well, I never smelled anything so foul as that rotten coconut milk and the two of them covered with it. It was a long drive around the island that day.

From daughter Sandi: (circa 2012)
Memorable visit: Whenever my mom came to visit (Sandi, Jody, and granddaughters Nicole & Kelly), we always looked for fun and adventurous places to go hiking. In our town, often there would be streams of water that you had to cross at some point during the hike. On this particular occasion, I recall there were several crossings involved. At each one my mom would say – “Oh, I hope I don’t slip into the water.” Finally, after about 3 attempts at crossing, she said “Oh screw it, I’m just going to walk through the water.” the funny thing was that she never complained about her sopping wet feet for the duration of the hike. Everytime I go hiking, I think of that experience and a smile comes to my face. I have to thank her for giving me the love of hiking!

Adventures in Paradise: Prologue To An Era
Living Room of our condo. Bernice in her spot at the end of the couch, feet on her leather foot rest. Me in my easy chair that nobody likes to sit in but me.
Bernice: So this is the big year?
Garry: All our years are big. What’s special about this one.
Bernice: I’m talking about your retirement, silly.
Garry: Oh that little item.
Bernice: Little item? You have been dying to retire since you were 62 and now you can and that’s a “little item?”
Garry: No, it’s huge. I never thought it would happen.
Bernice: Do you regret not retiring at 62?
Garry: Not really. Least not now. I didn’t hate my job. And I trusted your judgement.
Bernice: Always with my judgement. My advice. My guidance. I’m about sick of all that. Did you ever think what not having you home those three years meant to me? What it cost me? So you hadda work three more years. Big deal. Just business as usual for you. Me home alone. Half my friends moved away or dead. Every day between the time I read the poem you left in the morning and the time you came waltzing through the door in the evening…fixin my smile.
Garry: I’m sorry. I always thought you smiled because you were glad to see me.
Bernice: I was dammit! But that smile you like so much? You need to know there were days I had to work pretty hard to get to it.
Garry: Guess I never thought of that. I should have. What can I do…
Bernice: Finally he asks! (pause) Not much you can do. I just had to get it off my chest. OK if we just move on? What I’m interested in now is what we’re going to do with the time we have left.
Garry: Be together for one thing.
Bernice: That’s one big thing for sure. But there’s more to it than that. I’m getting older. My health is not what it used to be. You’ve said you would take care of me and I believe you. But you have to understand, I need more than you. I need my girls. They want to take care of me too. And you have to let that be alright. Sometimes you act like they’re intruding when they show their concern for me.
Garry: I didn’t mean…
Bernice: You didn’t mean for it to show. Well, it did but that’s not important now. What’s important now is for you to get what I’m saying. Let it sink in. Let what I’m telling you now be important to both of us moving forward. (long pause) And one more thing, we’re gonna  be doin some traveling babe. No more summers in Phoenix. I’m not going to be a prisoner in my own house ever again.  So start thinking about where we can spend this summer coming up.