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Waiting for a Sign

In the backyard of my in-laws’ home are two large, long-lived, apple trees that my father-in-law, planted after the family moved into the house he’d built in 1956. My mother-in-law made many a pie from the bounty of those trees. Roy and Barbara, who’d both weathered difficult childhoods, were married for over sixty years, raised four loving children and lost a young son to a congenital illness, a loss almost impossible to withstand. They knew what it meant to stick together through thick and thin, how love’s resilience is no accident, that it’s strengthened day after day, year upon year, out of promise, determination, water given to apple trees, and an abiding love of family. Even late in his life, I’d catch Roy look across the room at Barbara with an intensity of desire that would take my breath away. Before he died, as a very old man, the couple talked about the afterlife. Barbara asked him, if it were possible, to send her a sign so she’d know he was okay. Ten years went by. Nothing. The apple trees were so old, they’d stopped bearing fruit. Late last fall, Barbara was watering her garden when a bit of unexpected color caught her eye. She reached for the one perfect apple that, later, Barbara shared with her son. Roy hadn’t forgotten, after all.

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