Sherry: Sweet Memories of Times Gone Bye

I have so many wonderful “Philip Stories”. He was such a funny man. Not just funny, but witty and clever, and sharp as a tack. His comebacks were immediate and hilarious, always. He made me laugh out loud every single day of our lives together and that’s the truth.

In 1999, I was in a near-death car accident and after 32-days in the hospital and rehab I came home with two broken feet, three broken ribs, a lacerated liver, a broken nose and contusions everywhere. Philip became my caregiver.

He’d empty my bedpan. That was mortifying even after all our years together. Something a husband should never have to do, but he did it and because he knew how embarrassed I was he did so in good humor without it ever being a hardship or an issue.

It made me remember when we were first together. In those days, I would never use the bathroom before two in the morning when I was certain he was sound asleep. Heaven-forbid he’d hear something that would embarrass me. In those days, I embarrassed easily. When I think of my growth it makes me giggle. We women are so different then our male counterparts. Viva la difference!

During that time, I couldn’t sleep in our marriage bed. I needed to be in a hospital bed with electrical comfort adjustments and I was in pain everywhere. It seemed the only places he could get near and kiss and touch were my toes and my hands. He’d caress my toes and kiss my hand every chance he got. Philip always kissed my hands.

We never took a car ride long or short that he didn’t put the van in cruise control and reach over and take my hand to his tender warm lips. I know I’ve said this before, but I so miss his beautiful mouth, his kisses that told me how much I was loved. From our first kiss I knew I had never truly been kissed before that’s how extraordinary his kisses were.

Every morning he’d lovingly make me a platter of fruit because he knew how much I loved fruit and he knew I’d eat it. He’d cut the rind off the melons’ and create a vision of beauty with a colorful assortment of all my favorites. One morning he added radishes. Not just radishes, but radishes cut as if they were roses. When I asked him, “radishes, Philip?” He quickly responded, “It needed something red!”

It’s one of my favorite Philip stories. I still smile all these years later. It was simple for him. He wanted it to be beautiful. It’s why he always bought me flowers. He never came home without them. Early in our courting days he couldn’t get into a florist’s store. They weren’t designed to accommodate wheelchairs back then. So, he gave me money every week to buy myself flowers!

The first flowers I ever bought were Coxcomb. They looked like red velvet brains, all curly ques. They were gorgeous and they lived, believe it or not, nine weeks! I told him it was an omen.

During my time of recovery he started cooking. “Philip,” I asked, “after all these years I never knew you could cook.” To wit he replied: “I never had to before.”

He’d spend hours scouring cookbooks for new recipes experimenting on flavors and spices and creative concoctions. It was so adorable. What he didn’t know, and I never let him know, I couldn’t digest the highly flavored dishes because my liver was recovering and anything other then bland was totally indigestible at the time. I’d hide the food and save it for my aide in the morning to dispose of so not to hurt his feelings.

When our wheelchair lift broke down and we had to wait for a part from Canada, Philip was stuck downstairs in our guest room and I was stuck upstairs. He had a friend design a temporary pulley system so he could send food up to me and I could send the dishes down.

When I finally made it downstairs I was aghast that my heretofore kitchen counter was now wall-to-wall covered with every cooking device and spice that we owned. It was an awful sight, but I had to giggle because he had just made it more convenient for himself! Everything, and I do mean everything, was at his fingertips.

It’s funny; because when I designed our kitchen I made the shelving for the dishes and glassware without doors so I wouldn’t be frustrated when he’d leave a cabinet door open. Everything was easily reached and not a door to close. I made slide out drawers for pots and pans and all within his reach. It looked modern and appealing and no one other then us knew why I designed it thusly.

But, in spite of all I thought of…I didn’t think of putting spices and an array of other cooking stuff out in the open on the kitchen counters. I don’t know how I missed that one! I had to laugh otherwise I think I might have cried.

He used to tell me that if not for me he’d have a home with just some beanbag pillows on the floor for his guests.” After all,” he said, “I already have a chair!” Philip, however, loved everything I ever did to decorate our home. He’d proudly announce to anyone commenting on our home, “It’s wall to wall Norma.”

During that time he took to doing the laundry, but he didn’t quite get the concept, initially, about separating whites from colors. After awhile when our whites had turned grey he good-naturedly look a tutorial from me on the separation of lights, brights and darks. And never again did the twain meet.

Needless to say, he also began doing the grocery shopping and even after I was fully recovered he still did the shopping and the laundry…and did I mention he liked washing the dishes! He said he found it relaxing. I said, “Relax away my love.”

I remember the first time I came to visit him after he was sent home from the rehab facility. In preparation of my arrival he went grocery shopping. He spent $70 and all he bought were condiments. He bought green and black olives because he knew I loved olives, but he couldn’t remember which I preferred. He bought kosher pickles and capers and cheeses and an assortment of crackers. I can’t recall what else; what I do recall was how lovingly adorable he was. He wanted so much to please me.

What he didn’t know, couldn’t have known at that time, was that all I needed or wanted was to be encapsulated in his being, to be enfolded in the strength of his arms, to gaze into the blue hue of his eyes, to stare at his beautiful, glorious face, to smell his breath, to rest my head in the crook of his neck, to lie like spoons with our breath in unison as if we were dancing.

What I didn’t know at the time was that he wanted the same as I. He used to tell me that he wanted me to move in with him but he was certain if I did he’d do nothing else ever again but undo me. Just remembering, just thinking of his words, hearing his cadence in my head I can feel that “newness” that all young lovers know in the pit of my tummy.

Thirty-two years married; thirty-four years together yet not nearly enough time. I would do anything to relive every moment of our time together all over again – and I would change nothing at all. Well, maybe a time or two …

June 28, 2012

© Norma Sherry 2012

~ The Author ~
Norma Sherry Rappa is a writer, producer and television personality. Norma has been a contributor to Kettle Moraine, Ltd. publications since February 2003.