Editor's note: The names in this story were changed to protect medical privacy.
It is hard to imagine a kinder, gentler man than Mr. Melton. I became acquainted with this fine man when he accompanied his wife, Ester, to her appointments at the medical office where I work. They were always impeccably dressed, handsomely groomed, and you could almost feel the love emanating from Mr. Melton as he guided his wife through our halls.
I saw quite a bit of this adorable couple because Ester was having a bad year. She had fallen and broken her hip in the winter. She had recovered from a hip replacement surgery and months of rehabilitation, and everyone was feeling good about her progress. Especially Mr. Melton.
His life revolved around caring for Ester. He took care of her every need. He handled her most private daily needs, as well as making sure she always had a snappy outfit on, and a lovely coiffure. Ester had Alzheimer's. She rarely spoke and her face had no expression, but beneath the wrinkles you could find a faint twinkle in her eye that once caught the attention of a handsome young soldier.
Mr. Melton was so proud of how he cared for his wife. He regaled us with stories of how he and Ester loved ballroom dancing. They had won many awards over the years. He said that he and Ester were "like one" on the dance floor. He was always so happy about the wonderful life they had shared.
The Meltons had two sons, who lived far away on the East Coast. Their sons always checked in by phone, and often Mr. Melton would bring in the latest photos of two lovely granddaughters. Mr. Melton had told us about the years that Ester waited for him, during his tour of duty in World War II. She had looked after him for years afterward, as he made a living as a postal worker. They had raised their two sons, and welcomed two lovely daughters-in-law into their family. Their home had been humble, but full of love.
What made their life's routine so special was the special date they had twice each month to go dancing. They would get dressed up in their finest clothes. Mr. Melton always put a fresh coat of polish on his wingtip shoes. Ester always made an appointment to get her hair done. It was always so touching to see this little old couple shuffle in and shuffle out from our office, and imagine them as a young couple, dancing their way around a wooden dance floor.
Ester also had diabetes, and we began seeing her in our office for some diabetic ulcers that simply refused to heal. The doctor was always so complimentary to Mr. Melton about the expert bandaging and extreme sterile conditions that he maintained for Ester's wounds. There wasn't a nurse in the world that could do a better job than he did.
I opened the office on a busy Monday morning. I got a call right at 8 a.m., and a quiet, polite voice, wanted to let me know that his wife wouldn't be able to make it to her appointment. It seems that she had passed away a few days ago. I recognized the sad voice as that of Mr. Melton. I told him I am so sorry for his loss. I asked if he was OK.
He said he was fine, and he knew that Ester had gone to a better place. His sons welcomed him to move east and live closer to them, and he was happy to be given the chance to visit his granddaughters.
But he had one regret: He was sad that he would never dance again. He said he would rather have empty arms than dance with anyone but his beloved Ester.
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