She’s our beloved aunt but we hadn’t seen her in years. She’d married our Uncle Ray and lived happily ever after with him until he died and left her behind. We went to see them more often when Uncle Ray was still alive, even though it was a long way to their house in South Carolina. After mourning his death for a couple of years, she found Fate to be kind enough to send her another man to love and alleviate her loneliness. They sang and danced through the few years they had together, and Sarah Nell and I kept planning to go see them. Life happened though, and my right knee started to hurt more and more. I could hardly drive locally, much less long distance, so we procrastinated. During this time, this husband too died; she nursed him as best she could and treated him right. His children didn’t return the favor; they threw her out of the house before his body was hardly buried.
Soon we heard that Aunt Joan had moved back to Lyons to live with her brother who was delighted to have her with him and his wife. Nobody was getting younger. Aunt Joan had just turned eighty on her last birthday. Her brother was right behind her in age.
The first Saturday after we knew she’d come home, we drove over, picked her up, and went galivanting as women are prone to do when they are off together. We browsed at the Red Wagon for a half hour or so; then off to Belk we went to see what they had on sale. We spread out and covered the whole store inch by inch.
Belk soon lost its interest for us, and I heard stomachs rumbling—one was mine. We all had a taste for fish, but soon discovered that Captain Ds was closed.
“How about Shoney’s?” Aunt Joan asked.
Soon we were pulling my big old Lincoln into a parking space in front of our second-choice restaurant and putting on coats. The icy wind pushed us quickly toward the front door. Inside, the cozy warmth of the big dining room made shed the coats. The food was delicious; we enjoyed it while we caught up on our missed years.
After paying the waitress, we pulled on our coats and ran for the car. Back in the big old boat of a car, we settled in to decide what to do next. Aunt Joan was in the front seat with me; Sarah Nell was behind me.
“Girls, I hate to break up the party, but I’m really tired,” Aunt Joan said. “I’m not as young and spry as y’all are. I guess I’d better go home and take a nap.”
Sarah Nell and I laughed. We weren’t exactly spring chickens. Somewhere over those years we had turned into the old folks we used to talk about. Both of us are retired and have been for quite some time. As we dropped her off, we promised to come back again soon.
Sarah Nell called me about 7:00 that night. She said Aunt Joan had called her and asked if she’d left anything in my car.
“I don’t think so,” I replied. “Did she say what?”
“Yes, but I couldn’t understand her. Her phone was growling,” Sarah Nell replied. “Could you just go out and see if there’s anything unusual in the car that she might be talking about?”
I did go and glance, but the cold soon drove me back in. Global warming hadn’t gotten all the way down to Pine Grove that weekend. I saw nothing that hadn’t been there before—a plastic spoon, my long-lost pen, and one of my Sunday school books that I’d been looking all over for. I promised myself that I’d look more carefully the next morning.
When I went out on Sunday morning all bundled in my heavy coat and ready for church, I walked around to the passenger side and looked again. I felt under the seat and found a brown button and a half empty bottle of water. As I started to shut the door, I glanced into the pocket of the door. Therein I saw a wadded up brown napkin from Shoney’s. Surely that’s not what she wanted. I reached for it and pulled it out gingerly. As I peeked into the napkin, there they were—Aunt Joan’s bottom plate. She’d left her teeth in my car.
I laughed until I cried, making plans to get them back to her as soon as possible. Daddy used to keep his upper plate in his shirt pocket, always at the ready should he need them. Monday, I wrested enough time for a quick trip to Lyons; her teeth are back with her now, hopefully in her mouth, but next time we pick her up for a day out, I promise I’ll remember to check my doors before I drop her off. As for now, all’s well that ends well.
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