It is Eddie’s fifty-first birthday, his first birthday since Marguerite died. He remembers how much he hated his birthdays in the years after Marguerite’s accident, but how she would still make him a cake, invite over friends, and give him a bag of taffy with a white ribbon. Eddie goes to work and then spends the night alone—it is an ordinary day. The novel then flashes to his sixtieth birthday, then his sixty-eighth, then his seventy-fifth—each spent alone or at work, without any celebration. On his eighty-second birthday, Eddie takes a taxi to the cemetery and visits the graves of his mother, brother, briefly his father, and finally Marguerite. He thinks of her, and of how even though it’s bad for his teeth, he would eat taffy now “if it meant eating it with her.”
Without Marguerite, time appears to pass meaninglessly for Eddie. Marguerite was at the center of all the celebrations in Eddie’s life, and without her, even birthdays feel indistinguishable. Relationships, especially love, give shape to life. The small details of Eddie’s life with Marguerite now represent all that he had and lost with her—like the bag of taffy with the white ribbon she gave him for every birthday. Eddie’s work, which he once resented so deeply, is the only constant that remains after everyone he loves has died.