The Care Home

The Care Home

A Story by steve
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A short story.

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                    The Care Home


He entered the place feeling uncomfortable.  This was the first time he had visited his father since he’d been here.  Michael made his way to the reception.  At the desk sat a woman in her fifties.  She peered up with a smile on her face, before saying politely, “Hello.  How can I help you?”
“Hello,” was all he said, tears welling up.  “I’m here to see my dad.  This is the first time you see.”  Saying that embarrassed him.  Seeing his father in such a way was something he thought he’d never have to face.  As a child he was his hero, but now at the age of 74 he was a fragile old man who needed care on a regular basis.  This broke his heart.  
The woman could tell he was upset.  “What’s his name?”
Michael cleared his throat, before carrying on nervously, “His name is Alfred Cooper.”
She glanced through the book, then replied, “He’s on floor 1.  His room number is 33.  There’s a lift just over there, or if you prefer the stairs they’re in that direction.  Are you okay by the way?”
Michael didn’t know what to say, but she seemed kind, and answered, “Yes, I’m fine.  Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” was all she said.
He decided to walk up the stairs, as this would give him more time to get ready for what lay ahead.  “Please, God.  Let him be okay,” he said quietly.  He opened the doors.  Making his way up all he felt was sadness.  He dabbed his eyes with a tissue.  Grow up, Michael, he kept thinking, knowing his father would be ashamed of him.  Because in life his dad was always hard as nails, but at the same time the most kind hearted person you would ever wish to meet.  
He reached the top in good time.  Opening another door he found himself on floor 1.  A few metres away a couple of elderly people made their way into a room, while chatting.  He walked slowly up the corridor taking it all in.  From a room on the left of him a woman dished up food from a mobile oven.  Another lady appeared while she served the residents who sat at the tables.  At that moment Michael was surprised how friendly the place seemed, as he expected it to be a lot worse than this.  If anything, this made him feel more relaxed.  One of the carers gave him a look as he got nearer.  She was easily in her late fifties, with the biggest smile he’d ever seen.  She whispered something to one of the residents, making the elderly woman laugh.  He walked hesitantly into the room where a couple of them peered at him weirdly.  “Hello,” he said.  “Does anyone know where my father is, this is the first time I’ve visited you see?”
The woman who’d noticed him only seconds before stood up, before answering in a Northern accent, “What’s his name, dear?”
“Alfred,” was all he replied.  His throat was dry as anything.
She seemed bemused.  “That name rings a bell,” she said.  “Come on, let’s go look for him.”  She made her way through the doors and into the corridor.  He followed, not really knowing what was going to happen next.  How will his dad react the moment he claps eyes on him?  Michael was unsure.  
She stopped at an entrance to one of the rooms.  “Alfred.  Your son is here,” she said.  “Is he allowed in, because earlier you weren’t very happy.  Have you cheered up yet?”
Michael heard his father say something, but felt too nervous to look in.
The woman turned to him with concern on her face, before saying quietly, “The first time is always the hardest.  Go in there and chat to him.  In time he’ll be fine, and so will you.  I know it’s a big deal sending your parent to a place like this, but you did the right thing.  Always remember that.”  She patted him on the shoulder, then proceeded back to the dining area.
Once she’d vanished, he took a step towards the door.  Nerves overtook him again.  God this was hard.  With as much courage as he could muster he walked into the room, seeing his beloved father sitting on a lonely chair.  Doom painted on his ageing face.  Michael’s heart sunk.  “Hello, dad.  Sorry I haven’t visited before, but work commitments made it difficult.”
His father peered up, sadness in his eyes.  “I understand, Michael.  I’ve been there myself.  What you did took great courage.  I’ve always been proud of you.  You know that don’t you.”  A slight smile came across his face.  “But the dilemma of being old makes me miserable.  Do you understand?”
Michael’s eyes welled up.  He wiped them quickly with a tissue, hoping his dad wouldn’t see this.  His father had always been a strong person.  Michael sat on the soft bed a metre from the man he loved more than life itself.  “What can I do, dad, how can I improve things for you here?”  His hands shook.  I’m so sorry, daddy.
The old man thumped the top of the bed with his fist.  “You can’t do anything, son.  I’m ancient, stuck in this bleeding place waiting to die.”
“Please don’t talk like that, dad.  There must be something I can do to make things better,” he pleaded.  What could he do?
His father hugged him, and Michael could feel his warm breath on his neck.  
Then Alfred said, “I love you, boy.  I missed you in here while all on my own.  I do understand how you feel, boy.  The moment you told me that I needed to go to a care home, because you said I couldn’t cope any more.  It’s true, lad.  I’m old, only a gravestone waits for me now.”
“Stop talking like that, dad.  You’re the strongest person I know.  How you’re talking at the moment isn’t you,” Michael replied angrily, knowing deep down he was right.  The man who had played football with him since he was a child.  The man who’d been there through thick and thin.  Even as a teenager when he started smoking cannabis, and one night coming home stoned out of his mind, his father met him at the door, only saying one thing.  “Boy, why are you smoking that s**t?  Won’t do you any good.  Head in your bedroom quick before mother smells it.”  I love you, dad.  
The lines around his eyes seemed deeper than a week ago.  Michael found this worrying, since arriving here his parent looked older, like the life and spirit had been sucked out of him.  
He spent a couple of hours in the care home chatting to his dad.  Slowly his father cheered up, which was a great thing to see.  By three in the afternoon he headed home feeling slightly better.

................................................................................................................................................

His fourteen year old son sat opposite him at the dinner table.  As usual the boy was dressed in jeans and a dark grey fleece with a hood.  These days all the kids seemed to wear the same clothes, because they thought it looked cool.  
Michael had cooked a nice meal, and by the looks of it his son whose name was Andrew, seemed to be enjoying it.  Once the boy had finished, he took the dirty plate and cutlery into the kitchen still licking his lips.  “Cheers, dad.  That was nice.”
Michael was pleased by that response.  “Does that mean you’re going to wash up?” he asked, knowing the reply he was going to get.
Andrew gave him that look which Michael knew too well, before replying unconfidently, “I need to catch up on my homework.  You do understand don’t you, dad.  You want me to do well at school, don’t you?”
Michael pretended to be impressed with his son’s attitude, about doing well at school, then said, “Homework is very important.  See you later, mate.”  Bloody teenagers, he thought as he proceeded to the kitchen to wash up.  Once the drying up was complete he heard loud music coming from Andrew’s bedroom upstairs.  Well, you are only young once.  Make the most of it.  His dad entered his mind.  Sadness consumed him.  Next weekend he would take his son with him to the care home, so he can visit his Grandad.  It was still a lot to take in.  Michael found it hard to see his father as a vulnerable old man.  A tear ran down his cheek, he wiped it away like a bad dream now forgotten.  He entered the living room.  The TV was on, within minutes he was fast asleep.

................................................................................................................................................

On Sunday dead on midday Michael and Andrew entered the care home.  Michael could tell his son was nervous, even though he pretended he wasn’t.  Both took the stairs.      Once they’d reached the top the woman who had kindly helped him last time, appeared.  “Oh, hello.  I take it this is your son?”  She asked.  “By the way your dad has met a new friend.  This is the happiest I’m seen him.”
Michael felt utter relief.  Thank you, God.  “Oh, that’s brilliant to hear,” was all he said.
The she quickly vanished into the dining room to attend the other residents.
He turned to his boy.  “Follow me.  He’s just down here.”
They made their way down the corridor, this time Michael was a lot more relaxed.  When finally at the door, he peered in to see two old farts chatting away.  “Hi, dad,” he said entering the room.  All of a sudden nerves came to him, and for some bizarre reason he began to cry.  What are you doing?
Alfred looked up at him with a smile on his face.  “I have to apoligise for my son, Frank.  He’s always been emotional, even though he pretends he isn’t.  He’s a good man.  Looking at him reminds me of his beautiful mother who I miss very much”
Michael wiped the tears away, before answering, “I don’t know what happened there.”
Frank stood up from the chair, his hand reaching out.  Instinctively Michael took it.  “It’s very nice to meet you,” Frank said.  “By the way your father has told me so much about you.  All good as well.”
Michael liked him already.  “And it’s very nice to meet you,” was all he could think of saying, peering down at his father still sitting in the chair beside the bed, with the biggish smile he’d ever seen, made him want to cry again.  I love you, daddy.
Frank then walked over to Andrew who still stood at the entrance wide eyed, not knowing what to make of any of this.  “Guess how old I am, young man?”
Andrew looked petrified, before answering, “80.”
Frank laughed.  Alfred was in hysterics.  Michael was baffled by the whole affair.
For the next two hours the four of them chatted away.  Also much laugher filled the air, as Frank told the rudest jokes Michael and Andrew had ever heard.  For 96 Frank was in great shape.
“See you tomorrow, dad,” Michael said, giving his old man a hug.  It was finally time to leave.
“Okay, son.  I’ll look forward to it,” was all he replied.
Halfway down the stairs his son stopped, then turned to him, saying, “Grandad seems okay.  I wasn’t sure what he’d be like.  At least he’s happy, isn’t that right, dad.”
“Definitely, my son.  It’s good to see,” Michael answered.  
Outside it began to rain heavily.  Both rushed to the car which was parked nearby.  Inside, Michael patted his son’s shoulder, before saying, “Thanks for today, sport.  It means a lot.”
Andrew seemed pleased by this.  “Any time, dad.”
Then they made the journey home.

................................................................................................................................................

Three months had passed, Michael and Andrew visited at least twice a week.  As usual Alfred was in great spirits.  By his side always sat his buddy, Frank.  One day when the snow fell from the heavens with a vengeance, Frank turned to them all and a serious look came over his face.
“What’s wrong, mate?” asked Alfred, who was closest to him.
Frank coughed a couple of times, then said gravely, “Whatever you do in this life don’t hurt other people.  Do you understand what I’m saying.”  All of a sudden he slammed his fist on the top of the bed.
Michael was concerned.  “What’s wrong, mate?” he said.  His son who was inches from him scratched the top of his head, not really understanding what was going on.
“I’m sorry,” Frank replied.  “But I have killed many people in my life, which I’m not proud of.  This is why I tell jokes, to forget about the atrocities I faced in the war.  Life is about being happy, always remember that.”
Alfred touched his friend’s shoulder softly.  “I understand, Frank.  Life can be cruel at times, and there’s a lot of bad people about.  Don’t feel too bad about it, mate.”
Frank seemed touched by this.  “Thank you for your kindness, Alfred.  If the truth be told you’re the only person I can stand in this place.  The only one worth talking to.”  Suddenly the two old codgers burst out laughing, while Andrew still seemed confused by the whole thing.
So, were you in the war?” Michael’s son asked innocently enough.
Frank yet again smacked the top of the bed with his hand, before saying abruptly, “Leave it be, boy.  You are too young to know such things.  But I have a new joke to tell.  Are you interested?”
“Oh my God, not another one,” Michael replied, clapping his hands.  His son joined in.
Frank looked happy by that response.  But the sadness still stayed in his eyes as he laughed loudly , causing one of the carers to peek in to see if everything was fine.  “Every things perfect,” was all the old boy said, giving everyone a cheeky wink.
By 2.30pm it was lunchtime as the smell of food drifted down the corridor.
“See you soon, dad.”
“Okay.  Bye, boy.”

................................................................................................................................................

A week and a half later Frank died in his sleep, leaving Alfred shocked beyond belief.  One Sunday, when the sun shone brightly, his son and grandson came into the room carrying flowers..  The first thing Andrew said, was, “Where’s Frank?”
Alfred didn’t know what to say.  But with a sad expression he peered up at Andrew.  “I’m sorry, boy.  I’ve got some bad news.”  The sadness overwhelmed him as he dabbed his eyes with a tissue.
Michael all of a sudden had a terrible feeling in the pit of his stomach.  “I’m so sorry, dad.  He was a lovely chap.”
Andrew now began panicking.  “Where’s Frank, dad?”
Alfred placed a hand on his grandson’s shoulder, before saying, “He’s gone, boy.  He passed away last night.  I’m so sorry to have to tell you that, boy.”
Andrew sat on the chair beside the bed, shock on his face.  “I’m gutted,” was all he replied.
“And so am I.”  Alfred scratched the side of his face, then looking at Michael, said, “I love you, son.  You do know that, don’t you.”
Michael grew tearful.  “I know that, dad.  And I love you too.”  
“One day I won’t be here, but don’t be sad, Michael.  Please don’t mourn me too much once I’m gone,” Alfred said wiping his eyes some more.
Michael brushed a hand through his hair.  “I’ll grieve for you as I please, dad.  But you’re still here so stop talking like this.”
Alfred understood.  “You’re a strong lad.  I’m so proud of you.”
For the next 2 hours they watched TV in silence.  The death of Frank had stunned everyone.  It was so hard to believe.  By four o clock Michael got up from the chair hugging his father.  “See you tomorrow, dad.”
“I’ll look forward to it, Michael,” he answered.  “See you, Andrew.  Be a good boy to your dad.”
“I will, Grandad,” Andrew replied.  “See you next week.”
Both left the room, leaving Alfred to reflect on the bad news he’d received earlier, about his best buddy in here.  “My God, Frank.  You’ll be sorely missed.  And I’ll see you soon.  That’s a promise.”
The curtain by the window started to flap like the wind had caught it.  With utter shock he realised the window wasn’t even open.  Then he remembered something Frank had told him some time back.  “When I’m gone from this world, boy.  I’ll come back just for you.  And for that reason alone I’ve just thought of the dirtiest joke imaginable.  Would you like to here it, dear friend.”
Yes I would, Frank.  His eyes felt heavy.  Within seconds he had drifted off to a faraway place.

................................................................................................................................................

“Dad.  Come here quick,” Andrew cried out.
Michael rushed into the living room thinking his son had hurt himself.  “What’s wrong?”  The first thing he saw was Andrew sitting on the sofa holding a newspaper.  “What’s wrong with you.  I thought something terrible had happened.”
Andrew looked up at him excited.  “You have to read this, dad.  Honestly it’s awesome.”
What the hell was he talking about?  Begrudgingly Michael sat beside his son.  “So, what’s so special?”
“Look at the paper, dad.  Just look at it.”
He could tell his son was getting annoyed.  “Okay.  Give it here.”  He could see it was open on a certain page and took it off Andrew carefully.  Looking down he was surprised to see Frank in a recent photo.  Just above the picture it read.  
War hero who saved over a hundred people in one of the worst tragedies this war had ever known, has died at the age of 96.
There was more under the photo to read, and Michael did with much interest.  After two minutes he placed the paper onto his legs, then sighed.  “My God.  He was a great man.  But he never said.  Tomorrow I’ll take this to dad.  I can’t believe it though.  An old man who told dirty jokes like that, and he saved all those lives.  Astounding.  Learn off this, son.”  He patted Andrew’s shoulder.  “I’ll carry on cleaning the kitchen now.  But thank you for showing me that.”
“That’s all right, dad,” was all Andrew answered.  All of a sudden the curtain by the window began to flap like the wind had caught it.

................................................................................................................................................

Within half an hour Michael received a call which alarmed him a great deal.  His dad had trouble breathing.  “Come on, son.  We need to go to the care home.  Dad’s in trouble, we need to be there for him.”
Andrew picked up the newspaper and followed his father out of the door.

................................................................................................................................................

When Alfred finally came round, he looked up to see his son and grandson by the bed with worried faces.  “So, what happened?” he asked.  “Why am I still in bed at this late hour?”
Michael didn’t know how to answer, but said unconfidently, “When we got here an hour ago one of the carer’s told us you’d suffered from some sort of fit.  Do you feel okay, dad?”
Then Alfred remembered something.  “Oh my God.  It was Frank.  He came to me in a circle of light.  He told me that on the other side things were better.  A place he could grow to like, even though some of them didn’t get his jokes.”  He started to laugh.  “Frank, what a character.  I’ll miss him.”
Andrew took the newspaper out of his rucksack, and showed his Grandad the small piece about his good friend.
Tears welled up in Alfred’s eyes, before saying proudly.  “He certainly was a wonderful man.”
Michael hugged his father.  “I love you, dad.  And to me you’re a wonderful father.”
The old man touched the top of his son’s head, before replying, “That means so much to me you saying that.  I feel so blessed to have such a lovely family.  To me this is what life is all about.”
Using a bit of tape Andrew stuck the photo of Frank on the wall for all to see.  For the rest of the day they played card games and laughed aplenty.
When it was dark outside, Michael kissed his father’s forehead softly, not realising it would be for the last time.  “I’ll pop in tomorrow to see how you are.”
“That sounds good,” was all Alfred answered, waving them goodbye.  He stared longingly at the picture of his very good friend.  “Farewell, Frank,” he said softly.      A few moments later he’d lost all consciousness, and from the window which overlooked the car park appeared a familiar face.  And with it came the most radiant light.


                          The End

© 2016 steve



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Added on March 17, 2016
Last Updated on March 17, 2016
Tags: People, old, elderly, Michael, Andrew, loss, light, Frank, home

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steve
steve

Norwich



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Hi, I hope you enjoy my short stories. I've been writing for sometime now, and thoroughly enjoy it. To be honest, I find it quite addictive. Even when I'm at work I am thinking about the next story.. more..

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