Apple Pies

“Apple pies! Apple pies!” she repeated to herself. “That man and his apple pies will be the death of me.” Tears came unbidden and she dropped the wooden spoon into the apple filling, her eyes swelling with the frustration of life.

Elizabeth was dying. She knew she had very little time left. It had become clear to her when Tom, her husband, had been institutionalized for Alzheimer’s. For the first time she could remember, she had paid attention to her own body and it told her she was dying. The doctors merely confirmed it.

The decision of the family, including her, to put him in a place where he could get constant care was the hardest decision of her life. Very simply, nothing else compared. She looked around the kitchen and saw all the protective measures, measures used to protect toddlers from themselves that she had installed to protect her husband from himself, from the world around him. The years had shown how much he needed and how little was left in her.

She thought back to the first apple pie she had made for him, back to the beginning of their marriage some fifty years prior. Once a week, every week for those fifty years except when she gave birth to their children, Tom, Jr., Sarah, Elise and Joe, she would bake him a fruit pie. Four little ones hanging on her, sickness, anger, it didn’t matter and she always had done what she could to make sure that Tom was taken care of.

Their life had been one of hard work and harmony. “Even when the singin’ ain’t so good, the harmony’s there.” Tom used to say. She thought of him and the tears would not stop. Children of the depression, Tom and Elizabeth worked hard and saved everything they could. As a result, they found themselves with enough money to give their children good educations and a kind hand when the children’s plans needed some help. But now, all the money in the world, all the planning, all the hard work couldn’t bring her Tom back to her.

“Du meine selle, du meine hertz.” She started to sing to herself, her voice clouded with emotion and years. “You are my soul, you are my heart.” Tom would sing that to her when the world overwhelmed her. He seemed to know exactly the right time to croon the Schumann in his dusky baritone. He cooed to her over and over that they were inseparable. Even though a part of her felt abandoned by him as he gradually lost all sense of her and then himself, she believed him. They were inseparable; even death couldn’t tear them apart.

She wiped her eyes with her apron and sat numbly at the kitchen table. She had prepared nine pies and wanted to make another six. She wanted to freeze them unbaked for the time when she was too sick to prepare fresh ones for him. She wanted to have something her children could take to him each week so that at least that physical link between the two of them wouldn’t break. She wanted life, she wanted death. She wanted time, she wanted peace. She wanted her Tom.

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