Three ladies, three friends, walked arm in arm out of the enormous cemetery gates, crossed the road and into the city park. Their silver hair glowed against their black outfits in the radiance of the bright sun. Sunglasses hid the sadness their eyes portrayed.
They meandered along the pathway of the park in silence, the heels of their shoes click-clacked against the stone until they came upon an old majestic and large Weeping Willow tree. Under the drooping hanging branches, and surrounded by green grass scattered with winter leaves, was a quaint bench cemented into the ground beckoning visitors to sit on it. Dorothy Jorgensen, Audrey Kesslar, and Maisy Erasmus stopped in their tracks and gazed at the bench that nestled under the tree. “Let’s sit here,” Audrey said moving toward the bench pulling Dorothy and Maisy with her.
The ladies, now eighty-two-year-old ladies sat and sighed as they made themselves comfortable on the bench. The sun warmed their faces as the Weeping Willow’s leaves brushed them with a cool gentle breeze. “This bench is so befitting for our Peggy,” Dorothy acknowledged, “she would have been so happy here under this tree.”
Maisy slowly stood up, allowing her old bones to click into place before moving to the back of the bench.
“What are you doing?” Audrey asked.
“I’m checking to see whether this bench is dedicated to anyone.” She replied looking for any sign of such.
Audrey and Dorothy cautiously stood up and checked the seat of the bench. When all three women were satisfied that the bench had indeed no endorsement they sat once more, they made themselves comfortable and sighed. The sun warmed their faces, and the branches of the Weeping Willow tree brushed them with its cool breeze.
“We should dedicate this bench to Peggy,” Maisy said nodding in agreement with herself.
“Are you allowed to do that, it’s a public park?” Audrey curiously questioned her.
“I will find out, and if it is not allowed, well, I will do it nevertheless. Our Peggy deserves a place of honor and this bench will be perfect.” Maisy shuffled back on the bench and crossed her arms in determination.
Dorothy and Audrey “hmm-ed” their approval.
They gazed at the scenery around them. A gazebo laced in Ivy stood firmly in the center; a paved walkway wrapped around it, before leading off to all four corners of the park. Several benches evenly separated dotted the walkways. People strolled by; there was couples arm in arm, some eating ice-cream while others sat on the benches reading newspapers or magazines. Many people merely sat and admired life taking a slow pace for a few minutes. Further away from the gazebo families and friends sat on picnic blankets sharing quality moments. Children played on the swings, see-saws or flew their kites while the older teens played Frisbee or touch rugby. Whatever the activity, it was blissfully peaceful interrupted only by the sounds of joyful laughter.
The three old ladies smiled as passers-by greeted them, they petted dogs that sniffed at their shoes and waved at little children when they sheepishly stared; perhaps wondering why they were sitting on the bench all dressed the same.
“It was a lovely service for our Peggy,” Audrey said sighing at the same time.
“Yes it was, more people attended than I thought would,” Maisy answered with a smile.
Dorothy nodded at them both. “I was so surprised to see Agnes there, how did she even know about it?”
“I think Peggy gave the retirement home a list of people to contact. I had no idea she was still in touch with Harvey’s family.” Maisy said.
“It seems like an eternity ago, and yet at the same time it still feels like yesterday, you know what I mean?” Dorothy offered and sighed at the idea of life passed.
Audrey nodded wiping her eyes under her sunglasses. “We had a great innings, so much to be grateful for.”
Maisy and Dorothy never replied, instead Dorothy, who sat in the middle linked her arms through Audrey and Maisy’s arms and pulled them into her. They all giggled a little “There are not many in this world who can boast of having best friends for more than sixty years and who can still tolerate each other now is there?” She started to chuckle, and it was not long before Audrey and Maisy joined in with her.
People watched as three old ladies dressed in black, arm in arm, sat together on a bench, on a warm winter’s day wearing sunglasses giggling at what seemed trivial to others, but to them, it was an intimate and significant laughter.
“Should we go back now? Do you think there is anyone still at the church?” Maisy asked looking back trying to see if she was able to see anyone hovering around at the graveyard chapel.
“Oh no, I doubt anyone is still there, it’s almost lunch time, all the foggies will be back at the home just in time for lunch and their pills.” Audrey started to laugh at her comment; it infected Dorothy and Maisy until again they were three old ladies sitting on a bench under a Weeping Willow tree in fits of hysteria.
An ice-cream cart came along the pathway; they were pleasantly surprised to see such a delightful sight in winter. It was as though Peggy had sent him. “Wait, young man!” Audrey called out. He stopped and opened the lid of his cooler box, smoke from the dry ice wafted up and out of the box. The ladies stood up and slowly made their way to the man. He took out one of each flavored ice-cream so that they could make their choices. Audrey pulled her little purse out from her bra-strap, opened it and gave him a Fifty Rand note. The ice-cream man dug into his pockets for change, but Audrey waved him off as they all turned to walk back to their bench opening their ice-creams at the same time.
Dorothy and Maisy thanked Audrey as they sat on the bench under the Weeping Willow tree on a warm winter’s day.
“Peggy loved ice-cream do you remember?” Audrey stated licking the melting bits at the bottom.
“She would make us walk for miles when we went to town just for one.” Maisy agreed.
They smiled and licked away at their ice-creams until finished and deliciously enjoyed by all.
For a few moments longer they sat in silence then Brea came walking up the pathway apparently looking for them. “Oh granny here you are, we’ve been looking for you.”
“Hello, darling, who has?” Dorothy answered and asked.
“Everyone, mom got all worked up when she couldn’t find you and grandpa said you must be somewhere here, so I came looking for you,” Brea said standing in front of Dorothy.
“Sit down dear; we’re fine, your mother fusses too much,” Dorothy said waving her hand toward the grass indicating that Brea should sit on it.
“Yes sit down dear, you’re stealing the sun.” Audrey smiled.
Brea gave each lady a kiss on their cheeks and sat on the grass near Dorothy. “We shouldn’t stay too long; I’m under orders to bring you all back to our house. Mom and dad have taken grandpa home.”
“Oh, fusspot! It is lovely here, and we will stay for as long as we want. If you want to go home and fetch us later, you can do that.” Dorothy objected.
“No thanks, I’d rather stay here with you ladies.” Brea sat on the green lawn immediately fiddling with a fallen leaf.
“Where are Uncles Frank, and Desmond?” Maisy asked.
“Oh they went to our house with someone, I’m not sure who. They said you ladies were fine, and mom should stop stressing.” Brea said with a smile.
Audrey giggled “Guess they know us well enough after all these years.”