His arms slid around her as she finished filling the rest of the balloons with helium from the tank the party store had practically shoved into her hands the week before. She smiled as she felt her husband’s warm body press up against her back and let the pale pink balloon float up to the ceiling of their living room. He, being a full head taller than his wife, rested his cheek on the top of her head and she reached up to squeeze his arms, ignoring the wrinkles that made her hands look like a hag’s.
“Everything ready for the big day?” Jacob asked, kissing her white hair.
She smiled. “Everything’s ready. I can smell the barbecue, too. Smells good, honey.”
“It’s making me hungry,” he admitted. “When are the kids getting here?”
“They should be here soon. Sylvie said everyone was going to come over right after the reception for Daniel and Alex ended.”
“Good, good. I can’t wait to eat.”
Anna laughed and turned in her husband’s arms. “You’re always hungry, Jacob. Come on. Let’s get you a snack.”
Anna took her husband’s hand, just as wrinkled as her own, and, her floral green skirt swishing around her knees and her white sandals clicking against the hardwood floor, led him into the kitchen. Fruits, vegetables, steaming dishes, breads, and desserts were spread across the countertops and a casserole was baking in the oven. Jacob took a deep breath, enjoying the smells of all the foods scattered around him.
“It smells heavenly in here,” he murmured, rubbing his slightly bulging stomach over the faded green T-shirt he was wearing and closing his eyes.
His wife laughed and handed him a buttered up roll. “You just enjoy food. Maybe you should go check that barbecue. I’m sure those hot dogs must be ready by now.”
Jacob tore off a piece of the bread and popped it in his mouth. “You’re probably right,” he said around the bite. He held up his hands as she opened her mouth to scold him. “I know, I know. I shouldn’t talk with my mouth full, but, hey, today’s the last day. Give me a break, okay?”
Anna smiled and gently rested a hand on his cheek. “Habits are hard to break. Just ignore me today, okay?”
He reached up to take her hand and brought her knuckles to his lips. “Never, Anna, never.”
“Okay,” she said softly, her voice choking up. “Now go check on those hot dogs.”
Smiling softly at his wife of fifty years and chewing happily on his snack, he turned and walked out of the kitchen and out to the backyard. Anna watched him from the kitchen, picking up a roll to munch on. She leaned against the counter, watching the clock so she could pull out the casserole before it over baked.
She and her husband had finished decorating to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary and their grandson’s marriage just an hour before. The patio and the large slab of concrete extending further into the yard from it were filled with several round picnic tables covered in silver table cloths. Multicolored balloons had been clustered together and tied to a weight to make the centerpieces. Off to the side, Jacob was manning the barbecue, smoke rising up towards the sky as he removed the lid. The large trees shading the backyard were decorated with green, silver, gold, and purple streamers and some balloons were tied to the fruit laden branches.
She thought of it as a party paradise and remembered the years of birthday parties she and Jacob had hosted for their daughters. At one time, balloons and streamers were the only decorations they had been able to afford, so they had been the only decorations when the girls had been young. They had made it work, and had made the backyard as pretty as they could. They could afford better decorations now, but it was nice to return to the good old days, the simpler days.
Finishing off the roll and dusting off her hands, she glanced around the kitchen, waiting for the oven buzzer to go off. The last thing to come out of the oven would be the casserole. Then she and Jacob would move all the food outside. She sighed and let her eyes wander back to the clock, watching as the seconds ticked by, watching as her life ticked down. She and Jacob loved to entertain, loved to be around people, especially their family. She would miss this, but they had lived long, full lives, having raised two beautiful daughters who had given them wonderful, accomplished grandchildren. She would die happy and satisfied at midnight.
Anna decided she had been lucky in life. She had lived a long healthy life. She had been given grandchildren. She was celebrating her fiftieth wedding anniversary today. She could die happy with no regrets. She also loved knowing she would be able to die with her husband by her side.
She smiled as she watched her husband do a little jig as he sampled a hot dog. Laughing to herself, she pulled the casserole from the oven and turned it off just before the buzzer was due to sound. Still smiling, she made her way out to the backyard and joined her husband, who was placing a fresh batch of hamburger patties on the grill.
“Smells good,” she said as she approached him.
Jacob grinned at her and placed the cover over the grill. Then he turned and swung her into his arms, gently leading her into a dance. She laughed, but went along with him. They had always loved to dance. It was what they had done on their first date.
“We’ve had a good life together, haven’t we?” he asked as he spun her around in a slow circle.
She raised an eyebrow as she came back into his arms and he led her around the tables. “You have to ask that?”
He smiled as they began to sway in place. “No. I just wanted to.” He leaned down and placed a soft kiss on her lips. “I’m just glad we get to spend our fiftieth wedding anniversary together.”
She got a faraway look in her eyes and leaned her head against his chest. “I would never have guessed on our wedding day that this day, fifty years later, would be our last, that we would never get another anniversary together. How on Earth did we manage to plan that out so well?”
Jacob laughed, the sound still rich and full. “I don’t know. But I’m glad it all worked out that way. If I remember correctly, you wanted to get married a week later, but your uncle couldn’t perform the ceremony that weekend.”
She gave him a dreamy smile. “I remember that,” she whispered. “I’m glad it all worked out the way that it did and that I get to spend this last day with you and our family.”
“There may be no tomorrow, but at least we have today. And I hope we make the most of today.”
Anna smiled and rested a hand against his warm cheek. “I think we’ve made the most of our lives together. I like to think we’ve had rich lives. Rich, full lives. Just think about it, Jacob. Two beautiful girls and five grandchildren and now a grandson-in-law. I don’t know how we could have gotten luckier.”
“And don’t forget all those years we’ve spent traveling the world. The great careers we had. The beautiful home we own. Yeah. I think we’ve done pretty well, too.”
Anna hugged him tightly as their feet slowed in their dance until they were barely swaying along with the light wind. Jacob smoothed his hand over her hair before tangling his hands in the thick white waves.
“I love you,” he whispered.
She smiled, her head still resting against his chest. “I love you, too.”
They enjoyed a few more steps together before Jacob had to go and check on the hamburger patties. He promised her they would dance all night if that’s what she wanted. It was.