Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Visiting Time


Here as promised is my latest short story which I entered into the Calderdale Short Story Competition - didn't win - boo! 
It's a change of pace from my normal stories - less plot and more character driven - so less action but a sad tale about a family dealing with a member of family with Alkzeimer's.
Enjoy "Visiting Time"

The grey haired old man sat in his comfy leather chair staring out with deep blue eyes at the television.  The news was on but he wasn’t taking it in.  He just sat and stared.  He didn’t even look up when there was a knock on his room door and it opened up.
A young, pretty, dark haired woman entered in blue and white nursing uniform.  Julie was the name on her  badge.
“Stanley you alright?  You’ve a couple of visitors!” she exclaimed.
Stanley looked up as Julie stood to the side and a tall muscularly black haired man entered with a slim blonde woman by his side.  Have I seen them before wondered Stanley as they came close and the strong muscularly man gripped him tightly in a bear hug squeezing him close.
“Hi Dad, you ok?” he asked the old man.  Looking down into the man’s staring blank eyes he added,
“It’s Nigel Dad, your son.”
Stanley looked up into the man’s face.   He was brown eyed and handsome with strong features  but for all his strength there was a vulnerability to his eyes and as he spoke a weakness in his voice.
Nigel sighed as he felt his wife squeeze his hand and they sat on the bed next to the old man’s chair.  There was a clinical smell to the room.  The walls were painted white.  It wasn’t very pleasant.  Both Nigel and his Dad had been in better places he thought.
“I’ll leave you for now - visitor times finish in an hour remember – do you want a drink?” asked Julie still at the door.
“Tea please.” shouted Stanley to the nurse in a jolly tone.  His throat was dry.  He hadn’t had a drink for over an hour.  He had forgotten to ring for service.
“Make that three teas please.” Offered Nigel looking at Julie who nodded and left the room.
For a few moments there was silence as Nigel and his blonde wife sat and watched Stanley who had returned his gaze to the television.  Nigel noticed that his father looked fit and healthy, as he had years ago when he was sharp of mind.  But that was just the outside.  He knew Alzheimer’s had ravaged his father’s mind.  He didn’t even know who he was.  His memories forgotten.

Julie came back with a tray of tea and biscuits – she knew bourbons were Stanley’s favourite.  She put it down on a table next to the television stand and turned off the television.
“Stanley you have guests, your son is here to visit.  He wants to talk to you.” She said.
“Son?” asked Stanley as he looked up at the strong man sat on his bed beside him.  Nigel gave him a weak smile back.
Julie left the room.

“How you feeling Dad?  Your looking well.  Any aches or pains?” asked Nigel.
His father looked back up and smiled.  Then farted loudly and chuckled.
“I could do with oiling!” he laughed.
Nigel laughed back and his blond wife smiled.  It had eased the earlier tension and Stanley talked to his son about the weather outside for a few minutes.
They then all sipped at their tea’s and ate their bourbons.  Stanley dipped his into his tea and on the last one he had he swore as half of it fell into his tea cup making the bottom a brown lumpy mess.  He put his tea cup back onto the table grumbling under his breath.

“Dad we have exciting news,” Nigel announced as he looked over to his wife and her stomach which Stanley noticed had a slight curved bump to it.
“Cath is pregnant again. You are going to be a Granddad again.” Nigel spoke enthusiastically.
He hugged his wife close as Stanley smiled at them both.
“Congratulations “ he said joyfully.
“Talking of grandkids, Elliot says Hi and misses his Granddad.  He was going to come today but would have been too confused.  He’s Six now and starting his second year at school next month.  Here’s a couple of photos for you.” 
Nigel took photos from his wife’s handbag and passed then to Stanley who happily flicked through the five photos of a happy boy with brown hair and eyes.  A double of the man talking to him thought Stanley.  One had the boy on a swing.  Another showed the boy laughing with ice cream on his nose.  One had all three in the photo together.  Nigel looked on intently as Stanley scanned the photos hoping and wishing photos of his son would somehow trigger the old man’s memory again.
He knew deep down that wouldn’t be the case.  The doctors advised him his father had an aggressive form of Alzheimer’s and the fact that he had only had it two years was frightening.  No one realised at first.  He would forget his keys now and again.  Then he would forget names or to turn his cooker off.  Within six months he was so bad he found himself sat in the rain in the park  not knowing where he lived.  Eventually he didn’t know Nigel’s name or his brother.  Let alone his grandson Elliot or daughter in law Cath.

The old man shuffled the photos neatly like a deck of cards and passed them back to Nigel.
“No Dad these are meant for you to keep!” advised Nigel with a smile.
Stanley looked at the photos and gently put them on the arm of his chair.
Another few moments of awkward silence followed as Stanley shuffled in his chair for comfort.  He looked up at Nigel smiling.
“Have you any news sir?  It can get lonely stuck in this room all day.”

For the next 20 minutes Nigel with the help of his wife told Stanley what had been going on in their  lives since their last visit the week before.  From Nigel’s brother Tom taking over a building contract in Australia and still being single at forty five years old, to Elliot’s achievements at school including learning to swim.
They mentioned how they were doing at work too and how busy they both were with Nigel having more shifts at the gym he works for and Cath looking forward to maternity leave from the high school she works at.

Nigel told Stanley of their friends and neighbours and how they were doing and that he had acquired an allotment down the road from the nursing home Stanley was currently in.  He promised to bring his father fresh fruit and vegetables each week for the nurses to prepare for him.
All way through the conversations Stanley listened intently to them, smiling, nodding his head at certain parts and enjoying the company.  There were a few occasions during the talking that he stared blankly back at them and at one point mumbled something about being late for school. 
The main point thought Nigel is that Dad has company and someone to talk to him.  That I get to see him.

After another short silence in the room Stanley started yawning and his guests both noticed how tired he was looking.  Dark circles ran deep under the old man’s eyes.  He smiled up at them.
“Sorry kids didn’t realise how tired I am...” Stanley started.
“It’s alright Dad we’ll leave you to rest.  We’ll see you soon enough.  I might pop in, in a couple of days from my new allotment.”
Stanley stood up and shook Nigel’s hand.  “Thanks for visiting young ones.”
Even though Nigel knew his father had forgotten who he was, he was glad he could still visit like this.  He knew it wasn’t the same and would never be again and that the man shaking his hand was a shell of the man who was his father.  At this thought, Nigel started getting upset again.  A couple of tears escaped from his eyes.
“Ohh come here Dad.” he said as he grabbed Stanley hard again and hugged him tight for a good few moments. 
He let go and his wife leaned in and kissed Stanley on the cheek.
“See you later Dad.” She said in a sweet soft tone.  It was like music to Stanley’s ears.

          *                          *                   *                     *

Stanley watched them walk out the room.  The tall handsome man held his head bowed down low as the slim blonde rubbed at his back reassuringly.  They opened the door went out and the door shut gently behind.  Stanley stood there smiling.  The strong scent of the man’s aftershave lingered in Stanley’s nose.  He breathed it in deep.  It was very strong.  Stanley liked the scent, a musky aniseed smell.  It was familiar to him.  As quickly as he had breathed in the aftershave something clicked in his mind.  Suddenly memories came flooding back.

Images, smells and feelings all came flooding back to Stanley all at the same time.  He was confused with so much going into his mind at once but now he knew who the tall man was.  His son Nigel.
He remembered Nigel as a baby all fat and cute with wavy brown hair and sparkly brown eyes.  His other son Tom stood over watching and wanting to play.  An image of his wife Mary came back to him also.   She was stood tall with long auburn hair wagging her finger at the boys for playing pranks.  Their heads were held down in shame, hands behind their backs.
Memories of playing ball in the park with his boys came back to him vividly and their first day at school.  They looked very smart in their plum coloured school uniforms.  He was so proud.
Different images of the boys came back to him of them growing up, from toddlers to men.  There were so many memories  in such a short space of time.

Stanley rushed over to the window and looked out and down to the car park where he saw his tall son holding his wife’s hand as they strolled to their car.  Again he was so proud.  He wanted to talk to him.  Tell him how much he loved him. Loved them all.
More memories  came back to him.  This time it was a sad memory of being dressed all in black with his two sons holding him up for support  as he wept over his wife’s coffin.  Mary had died of cancer a few years before.  Stanley also remembered being in hospital  as Nigel showed him his first grandson Elliot.  He was the double of Nigel when he was a baby and was looking more like him as he grew up.

With his nose pressed against the cold window Stanley stared sadly and helplessly at his son and daughter in law as they entered their car and drove away.  Tears rolled down his cheeks as he stood willing them to come back, to talk to him knowing what he now knew. 
It was not to be.  As quickly as he had remembered his sons and major events of his life the memories just as quickly vanished, stolen from him.

Stanley wiped the tears with the back of his wrinkled hand, puzzled as to why he was crying.
“Silly old fool,” he muttered to himself as he walked over to the television putting it on.
As he sat himself into his comfy chair he didn’t see his Grandsons photos and knocked them onto the floor.
Stanley grinned happily to himself as he saw a solitary bourbon biscuit sat on the table near him.  He picked it up and continued to watched the news.

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