"You're dead; you don't get a vote."
My late husband had taken advantage of my middle-of-the-night bathroom break to jump in the empty half of my bed. It was just enough time to rouse me from sleep and to get him chatty.
"Since I live in your head, you're taking me with you, right? Whether I like it or not."
"It's an experiment, sweetheart," I said. "Two weeks, in an apartment separate from Jilly, to see if I can live independently in L.A."
"I never liked L.A."
"That's because we didn't drive on our visits; you hated being stuck in her house while I clung to my grandkids."
"So, are you really going to drive in L.A? I read on your blog that you might lease a Honda?"
I paused on the dialog bouncing in my brain. Honda. Did that vehicle stir unpleasant memories for my deceased husband? Was he still rankled because I took away his car keys when his illness made it unsafe for him to drive?"
If so, he didn't bring it up, but went on to say, "The hills in Silver Lake, the 110? Are you prepared to deal with those?"
Boy, my hubby of 14 years sure knew my tender spots. Had he picked up on my own anxiety as I boldly wrote my intent to be a driver in L.A.?
"And, 'adopt a dog'? You sure know how to hurt a guy. I thought we decided that after Buddy died, we wouldn't get another. Too expensive, too much potential for heartbreak. Weren't those your words?"
"I was only daydreaming," I said. "My readers like upbeat. If I had admitted my fears or hesitations, I'd lose the readers who count on my positivity."
"So, why bring me into this conversation that you're surely going to write about?" he said. "Talking to your dead husband isn't a ray of sunshine."
"You're wrong. My readers love it when I bring you back. It lets them know, that with a little imagination, they can resurrect their dearly departed."
"Glad I can be of service."
"So, are you mollified, sweetheart?"
"One more thing," he said. "If my numbers are correct, this would be your fifteenth move since 1960 and your first marriage. Right?"
I paused to count, and as I did a slideshow glided past my closed eyes. See the walk-up apartment in Rogers Park, one- and two- bedroom apartments in Prairie Shores, captain's quarters in Massachusetts, a Glenview bi-level, a South Commons townhouse, condos in Streeterville and Michigan Ave., a LaSalle St. townhouse, an Old Town rehab, a West town loft, a Lakeview townhouse, A Geneva country house, a Dakin Street single family, and now, a River North rental.
Each image carried its own emotional high- and low-points. There's the bright-eyed newly married couple. Two giggly girls born 18 months apart. Feeling fish-out-of-water in suburban and country homes. A surprise divorce. A happy remarriage. Shocking death. Resilient widowhood.
"Sixteen," I said, correcting his math.
Instead of judging, he said, "Remember I told you I'd only leave Dakin Street feet first?"
"You kept your word."
"But, here I am, with you in a high-rise, where I never wanted to be."
"Couldn't stay away? Miss me as much as I miss you?"
"Of course. And, I saw you during Chicago's last winter. I was relieved you weren't still in our house dealing with icy sidewalks, frozen pipes, and a snowbound garage."
"So, along with me being able to see much more of my family, you can appreciate the advantages of sunny California." I said. "Golf for you, year-round."
"Sweetheart," he said. "Up here, we not only have golf year-round, but also twenty-four seven, no green fees, no reservations, and never a foursome ahead. Why do you think it's called Heaven?"
"Okay, honey," I said. "I apologize for not consulting you sooner. So what's your verdict about a possible number seventeen?"
There was a pause, then this: "I see that the Tommy Bahama clothing store has some cool golf shirts. Can you pack me a few?"
"Done," I said. And with that last word, I drifted off to sleep. The image of my hubber garbed in a colorful, Hawaiian shirt, golf club aloft, and his Cubs baseball cap shielding his brown eyes from the California sun was as soothing as a lullaby.