The Black and Tan promptly arrived at the table along with the chocolate milkshake that Rob ordered. We've been to Fenton's many times over the years and while I've enjoyed their Banana Specials and Saddleback Brownie sundaes, for me, the Black and Tan was always the best. I looked at the sundae and remembered.
Rob and I had made it a regular routine to have dinner once a week. Usually we were at the Hopyard for Pint Night, but not this night. I had suggested we go to Fenton's when I got home from work. I didn't have to explain it or convince him; he knew why I had chosen this place. As soon as we arrived, the memories of countless visits started coming to mind. I introduced Sherri to Fenton's before we were married, 30 years ago. Rob mentioned that his first memory of Fenton's was his third birthday party and he remembered the train cake that mom had made for him. I remembered how Sherri would always order a sidecar of hot fudge with her sundae because she couldn't get enough chocolate. We remembered how Sherri would eat ice cream; her dish was always clean because she would treasure each spoonful. That's why we were there, to remember.
The interesting thing about memories is that you can't control what brings them on. It can be a song, a smell, a picture, a dessert, a comment, or any other random prompt. We chose Fenton's because we knew it would prompt good memories, warm memories, and that's what we wanted. Rob and I talked about the usual current happenings in our lives along with our recollections. I wasn't as talkative this night as I kept more to my thoughts.
I remembered the sound of her voice. I could hear her cheerful tone. I remembered her greeting on her cell phone, "Hi. This is Sherri..pause..um..I can't come to the phone right now, but leave a message and I'll call you back...pause...bye". You know, I listened to that answering machine message dozens of times over the past year. I would call, listen, hang up, and call again - sometimes 4 or 5 times in a row. Sometimes I'd leave a message, simply saying that I missed her. I remember every inflection of that message but the one that stands out the most was the last word - "bye". It was how she said it that stood out to me. She said it with haste and a downward inflection, as if she didn't like saying goodbye and wasn't really comfortable.
A year ago on Easter, Sherri said to me and Rob, "it was a perfect day". The juxtaposition of that day with the day that followed has been very hard for me to grasp. My friend Scott and I have discussed this and tried to rationalize it. I like his explanation that maybe she had taken us as far as she could and it was someone else's turn. He also said, "think how lucky you were to have that last perfect day. You got to share it with her. In a way, it was like her last gift to you."
As we finished our sundae and milkshake, I thought about that last day. As I paid the bill I remembered a funny incident when I paid the bill for our last breakfast on Easter morning a year ago. I laughed and told Rob the story of how I inadvertently gave our waiter $10 instead of $20 for a $15 bill and suavely told him to keep the change. Sherri and I laughed at my mistake and embarrassment; the waiter was quite understanding. Just another random memory prompted by a familiar experience; I consider myself lucky.
As Rob and I left Fenton's, I thought about how I could remember every moment of that final day Sherri and I were together. For a person that didn't know how to say goodbye, she said goodbye in the best way she could. I love her for that.