by Alex Chen|
Three years have passed since I last set foot in the United States. While backpacking in the outback, I somehow found myself overextending my stay on Jack and Olivia’s little farm.
At first, I had no plans on staying more than a week. Two weeks tops. I had booked a stay in their renovated brown barn that overlooked a gorgeous little lake in the hills. The hill was like a painting, painted green from the fauna and with a dash of brown from the hills. To pay for my extended stay, I fed the pigs and chickens, mended fences, and did anything else the couple might need help with.
I don’t know why, but this old couple had an adorable charm that kept me from leaving. It was their quirkiness and unbelievable blissful outlook on life. They were happy even when their was nothing much to smile about. When heavy rains washed away their garden, Jack just smiled and said, “Those carrots weren’t that juicy anyways.” And Olivia was like, “I love to play in the sand. Makes me feel young again.”
Their marriage had plenty of smiles, laughter, and most of all, love. Olivia was a yoga instructor and Jack a lawyer who bought this farm and retired here. In their youth, they loved seeing the world together. We shared stories of our travels. I nearly succeeded in convincing them to carry on with their travels by joining me on my next adventure to Asia. “We’re much too old. We wouldn’t to have you carrying all our bags for us.” Jack would always say. “And the farm can’t care for itself,” Olivia would always add.
On the Johnson farm, laughter can always be heard around some corner. Jack always use to tell me, “a life lived filled with laughter is a life lived well.”
One early morning, when the rooster hadn’t yet come out to crow, Jack’s heart suddenly stopped. Olivia was devastated when she woke up the next morning. “I thought he was dreaming a nice dream, because he had a smile on his face.” She told me afterwards. That was about 6 months ago. I haven’t seen Olivia smile, let alone laugh once since then.
I extended my overextended stay because I just couldn’t bare to leave Olivia after Jack’s passing. We both kept busy and hugged each other when the tears started running down our faces. The time I spent with them was short, but the bond that formed was strong. And I wanted to see Olivia smile again. Even if it’s just a faint little smile.
This morning, I woke up and had the craziest idea. After making a call, I stormed downstairs and found Olivia having her morning tea in the kitchen. “Olivia, I have the craziest of ideas.” I said, smiling from ear to ear.
“Calm down Jonathan. What is it?”
“Olivia. We’re leaving this farm. You and me. We’re gonna go to Asia. We’re taking Jack to see Asia.” I answered, placing a pink backpack down on the table in front of her. There was a very well placed map of Asia peeping out of the front pocket.
“Oh no. I can’t possibly do that.” Olivia said softly, trying to hide her smile.
I urged her, “Sell the chickens and pigs to the Smiths. I’ve just spoke to them. They said I was crazy, but they thought it was a good idea, too. The farm will still be here when you get back. C’mon Olivia. Jack’s looking down on you know and he can’t bare to smile up there seeing you like this.”
Olivia looked over at Jack’s urn and finally let out a smile. Her wrinkled hands reached for the backpack, took out the map and started unfolding it. “I hear Taiwan is nice around this time of year.”