G’day. My name’s Jim. This little lady here is the love of my life, Jess. She’s a sweetie, isn’t she? Sometimes I really wonder what I’d have done without her all these years. We never had any kids, but somehow it always seemed enough just to have each other. When we had the farm she worked alongside me every day. Nothing was too hard, or too much to ask.
It’s always amazed me how she does that though—watches TV, knits, and reads, all at the same time. But you ask her what was the last thing that happened on the screen and she’ll tell you word for word! Women, hey? They’re a strange breed. We’ve been together now for fifty-five years.
Well, that’s maybe not entirely true since I’m not actually here, not in body anyway. Yep, you guessed it, I’m the “Dearly Departed”. Deceased. Brown bread. Dead as a doornail!
She can’t see or hear me but somehow I just don’t know where else to go. I figure if I hang around maybe I can keep an eye on her. You know, steer her in the right direction if she needs to make any big decisions, Well that’s my story anyway and I’m stickin’ to it.
How did I die? Well, it’s a common enough story I guess: I’d been having a bit of trouble with the old waterworks for a while and no quack was going to be giving me the finger if you get my drift. Jess caught me in the dunny one day with tears in my eyes and she only had to see the slow drip, drip, trickle to know things weren’t exactly hunky-dory. She had me down to Doc Evans before you could say “prostate” and, well, I suppose you can guess the rest. Blood tests, scans, exploratory surgery, chemo, et cetera.
The really stupid thing—from my point of view—was that they said if we’d caught it just a couple of months earlier I’d probably still be alive! I tell you, folks, it doesn’t pay to try to be a hero where your health is concerned. 20 / 20 hindsight I think they call that. A wonderful thing—but totally bloody useless.
I don’t know exactly how long I was in hospital but I do know that it seemed every time I opened my eyes Jess was at my bedside. How she persuaded the staff to let her practically live there was beyond me but I guess as our house was pretty close and it’s a small country hospital they understood. Not that I was awake a whole lot, as they had me pretty doped up most of the time.
I opened my eyes one morning and found myself standing looking down at myself, laying in the bed. The doctor was checking for signs of life and Jess was weeping in the corner. Not knowing what else to do I walked home to wait for her—and so here I am. I wish I could let her know I was here though.
Charlie called by again today, and Jess talked him into stayin’ for dinner. Charlie and I were in the Army together. He’s been my best mate for as long as I can remember. Jess and I, and Charlie and Rose—his ex-wife—were a regular part of what passed for a social scene around here in the ’50s and ’60s. I always reckoned he had a soft spot for Jess back then, but he ended up marrying Rose a few months after we tied the knot. She left him after a couple of years and moved to the city to work in real estate. Charlie never remarried. In fact, he never seemed interested in anyone else so I guess Rose was his one true love after all. The three of us stayed close friends, and he was the only other regular visitor when I was in the hospital. He’s a true friend, is Charlie, and it’s good to know he’s keeping an eye on Jess too.
What a bloody catastrophe! Jess popped out to the garden yesterday to pick some tomatoes and tripped on a loose paver.
What a damn fool I am! I’d promised her for ages to fix that path, but just never got around to it. Now, thanks to my damn stupid neglect she’s laid up in hospital with a busted hip! To make matters worse it happened late on a Sunday and no-one was around to hear her calling out except for me. I stayed with her, of course, and even dashed up and down the street trying to attract someone’s attention but as you can guess I was about as much use as an ashtray on a Harley.
She lay in agony all night and it wasn’t until Pete the postie came at 9.00 am that she was finally discovered. By that time she was too weak to call out so I knew this was my last chance.
Pete was slipping a letter into our box, with me waving my arms and screaming uselessly at him, when in desperation I grabbed a couple of envelopes from his bag and waved them in his face before running around the back, with the illustrious Pete the Postie in hot pursuit, to drop the letters near where poor Jess was laying, half-conscious.
Don’t ask me how I did that, or what poor old Pete made of it, but it did the job. Pete called the ambulance and Jess was in casualty within a half hour.
So now it’s my turn to sit by a hospital bed and wait. She opened her eyes for a minute and I’m sure she smiled at me but I heard the doctor say that she’s still in a coma. One thing’s for sure—I’ll not be going anywhere so long as Jess is in this place.
She’s awake now, and in a bit of pain despite the medication. Charlie is here too. She told him she saw me by her bed that first day, but he agrees with the nurses that it was just the morphine. Can’t say I blame them, of course. Good old Charlie, I know he’ll keep an eye on her and get her anything she needs.
It’s been two months now, since Jess’ fall. Two months of pain, plaster, and persistence. She’s been in the Rehab Wing for three weeks, and Doc Evans has just told her she can go home today.
Charlie has been in every day, sometimes sitting here with me and watching her sleep. He gets that misty-eyed look at times, and I reckon his soft spot for Jess has well and truly resurfaced. She could do a lot worse, of course. Strange, though, you’d think I’d be a bit jealous but all I really want is for her to be happy.
Well, what a turn-up! Charlie brought her home from the hospital, stayed for dinner (which he cooked) and the next thing you know the bugger’s moved in! I’ve taken to going for long walks at night so as to give ‘em their privacy. They still don’t know I’m here of course, but some things you just don’t need to be privy to. Jess is coming along well. She still has a bit of a limp, but they say she’ll heal completely. Charlie has fixed the garden path and seems to relish being the man-about-the-house. He’s becoming quite the gardener too. I never saw that side of him before.
Jess was up early this morning and left the house a few hours ago. Charlie spent last night at Pete’s place. Pete is to be Best Man. The ceremony will be over by now I think.
Jess and Charlie will be spending a week on the coast, sort of a honeymoon you’d call it I guess. I hope it all goes well for them. One thing I do know is that they don’t need my company.
Somehow I couldn’t bring myself to tag along to the wedding, either. Anyway, there’s something I need to think about.
You see, I’ve had this feeling for a while now that I need to be somewhere—somewhere else. There’s a sort of light that seems to follow me around wherever I go and I get the urge to see what it is. I stood really close yesterday an’ I swear I saw my old Mum smiling back at me. There’s nothing to keep me here now, so maybe I’ll go and check it out.
Anyway, thanks for stoppin’ by. I guess I’ll be off. Say “Hi” to them for me when they get back, will you?