In this I believe.
I believe in everlasting love and turtles. My husband, Tim, and I were married for 22 years. He died recently from cancer, leaving me and our 4 children to carry on. We aren’t doing a very good job of it lately and I despair. The last gift my husband gave me was a tiny little eastern painted turtle; about the size of a quarter. He was an architect and the things around him were about color, texture, light and form. He carefully arranged slate and stones in the aquarium for this turtle with his talented hands that held our babies, stroked my hair and made art from nothing. About 10 days ago the children and I had a rare light hearted moment, laughing about how fat the little guy had gotten and that we needed to change his name from Squirt to something else. Last week I went on an errand to buy toys and filters for my little turtle only to come home and find him dead. I wailed and howled and screamed at everyone and no one. “I can’t even take care of a turtle!” I cried like a child at the loss of my sweet little turtle; the last loving gift from my husband.
As I lay in our bed, which is now my bed, weeping, I was suddenly overcome with my husband’s presence, which I haven’t felt since his death. I remembered. As we waited in between appointments to finally hear the doctors tell us what we already knew, we went to the park and sat by the pond in those last days of June before the summer turns blistering hot. I spotted a baby turtle and pointed it out, reminding myself out loud how much I wanted to replace the one that had died years ago. My husband, 47 years old, once 6 foot 2 inches and 250lbs; a tree trunk of a man; now frail and using a cane, slowly stood up and balanced himself and said he was going to walk a little. I got up to join him, and he waved me away. He walked all the way around that pond looking for a turtle. Some Hispanic children were fishing nearby and asked me what he was doing. Knowing very little Spanish, he returned to hear me saying, “Tortuga” to the children.
The next day we returned to the pond. It was an unusually cool day for June; perfect for my husband who hates the heat. Out of the back of our van, he pulls out a 20 foot long pole with a crab net attached to it with duct tape. “What do you think you are going to do with that!?” I asked him. “Tortuga hunting” was all he said in reply. For the next several days we returned to the pond at the park, my husband with a long pole, followed by children shouting and pointing. How he loved children. And how he loved me. As frail as he was he wanted to give me something from his own hands. We never caught the Tortuga, and we heard what we expected from the doctors. We went home and my husband ordered me my turtle from the internet.
My husband, lover, and best friend died in September 2 days before he turned 48, and my turtle is gone now too. But I have the memory of my husband’s sweetness, and determination to give me what I wanted whenever he could. I wanted him to stay with me and grow old with me; but we don’t always get what we want, do we? But from my despair over my dead turtle came an answered prayer; the feeling of love and warmth of my husband’s presence and that sweet memory of days of unspoken love and Tortuga hunting that are everlasting
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