George lay still with his eyes wide open. He couldn’t move if he wanted to as he was so, what would you say, old. He was riddled with arthritis and dosed up on morphine. The pain, oh the pain, was severe. As he lay there in his bed, the sunlight glimmered around the edges of the curtains. He often just lay there, for hours on end. He couldn’t do anything else.
George wondered what time it was; the last carer had forgotten to place his clock where he could see. It annoyed him when they did that, after he’d asked. What he had done in his life seemed so meagre now as he couldn’t relate any of it to anyone. He had no family left; they had died and he was the last of his line. Oh, he longed for his body to be youthful again, indeed he would even wish for just twenty years to be knocked off his age of 95.
It was a frustrating existence, the body old, the mind wise. The depths of life had burnt ferociously into the source of the soul and George knew all too well that this mundane place he was now in would not affect his purpose. Life had been cruel and kind but the balance of bad and good had made him strong. He knew that his subconscious spoke the truth, be it welcome or not and it was what kept him who he is. Yet, he also knew that his soul was the ultimate claimant on this body which he was but a visitor to, soon to depart, no doubt.
Suddenly the door burst open and Fred chirped a ‘Good morning George!’. Fred was George’s favourite carer because he swore like a trooper. George called him Ffffing Fred.
‘Morning Ffffing Fred. I am quite weak today.’ George spoke in his slow, hesitant voice. ‘What’s the time?’
‘Oh Fuck it George! Did old Doris knock your clock over again?’ Fred exclaimed in a very loud voice, as George was quite deaf.
‘Nooooo! It wasn’t Dotty Doris. It was that one last night, I asked her, I did ask her Ffffing Fred.’ George replied.
‘Fucking hell, we get these fucking temps in, so called caring, fucking temps and they won’t even let you see your fucking clock!’ Fred carefully positioned the clock so George could see from where he lie and then laughed at the euphemism.
George chuckled an inward, distant, gurgling laugh which emanated from beyond his oxygen tube.
Fred then set about his normal routine, roughly man-handling George into different positions to wash him, changed the soiled bedding and put his bed rest into that awkward, slipping pillow stance. George was hunched up, slowly sliding down the bed as the clean sheet softly urged him across the waterproof mattress underneath until he met a point of no return. He gasped and then looked out of the window which was now a dazzling glare of light, the curtains drawn, and George’s cataracts creating a haze.
It was now that George knew, once more, that his dreary day was to begin. An existence of basic necessity with Wake Up, Sit, Look, Lunch, TV, Dinner, Wash, Sleep with medication visits was all he now knew. A bruise started to form on his left thigh where Fred had gripped him too hard whilst washing. George tried to squirm, he couldn’t do squirmy very well these days and he managed a slight shift of his left buttock, causing him to twist slightly on the slippery mattress.
Before he was taken into the care home George was content in a small bungalow where he pottered around looking after himself. He had all he wanted and he had his independence. But as his age and disabilities got the better of him, he had become unable to clean himself, yet alone his home. The lovely neighbour from across the road had occasionally visited to bring him some sweets; he loved his toffee. The neighbour was called Linda. She had gone away for a couple of months and when she returned she came to see George. Linda was horrified at how George had deteriorated and found him sitting in his chair, awkwardly trying to rise to get to the bathroom. Poor George was surprised to see Linda. She had her own key, and his bathroom needs were too desperate. George was also becoming doubly incontinent, yet, he managed to clear it up, mostly. Linda gasped in horror and retched at the smell when she opened the door. George didn’t see what the problem was. He was happy, he was managing, he wanted to stay here; he had been through much worse in his lifetime. It was his home, his mess, it didn’t matter to him.
The next day there had been a knock at the door and George had stumbled through his home, across the dirty carpets to see who it was. ‘Hello, Mr Edwards, I am Felicity from Social Services. I have come to assess your needs and see if we can help you. May I come in?’, a slight, young brunette spoke, her hair neatly tucked into a pony-tail. She wore a smart, grey suit, flat shoes and disposable gloves.
Before George could say otherwise the young lady had negotiated her way. George had signed the forms with his increasingly arthritic hands and a few weeks later they had arrived to take him into the care home. The financial assessment had determined that George should sell his home to pay for the fees to support the benefits and state pay he was entitled to. George bade farewell to his small bungalow and his possessions were mainly thrown away; just the cherished photographs he had from his life and a few small bits and pieces were taken with him, at his request. That was five years ago, now.
Once George was in his room he was medically assessed and had a permanent catheter fitted to help with his urinary incontinence. He had never had a catheter before and he found it an uncomfortable experience but not intolerable. It made his penis feel somewhat firmer than it ever could be now, and that made him chuckle! George didn’t think of these things as degrading, boring or wrong. It was his sense of humour which would remain solid and reassuring for life; he was determined.
‘George! Why didn’t you buzz!’, in flew Susan with his medication, a whole array of different tablets to swallow and an injection of morphine. His catheter bag had overfilled and was backing up the tube, leaking urine over the bed and trickling over the floor.
‘Oh, hello Susan. I don’t feel very comfortable.’ George weakly murmured.
‘It’s no wonder George, you’re sitting in piss.’ Susan snapped and proceeded to shift him around to wiggle the sheet out from under him. ‘I’ll have to get help. I can’t lift you to put a new sheet on.’ Susan gave George his medication and left.
About two hours later, after George had been lying on the mattress alone, Susan returned with Bob.
‘Georgie boy! What have you been doing! You naughty man!’ Bob exclaimed. Susan and Bob lifted him and fitted a clean sheet. ‘It’s time for lunch anyway, George. We’ll see you later.’ Bob patted him on the head and then they left George to sleep.
George was not feeling well. He had a tight feeling in his chest and had started to cough, but he fell into a drug-induced, morphine-elated sleep and didn’t know much about it.
He dreamed of his home in Wilstead. He sat in his chair, everywhere was spotless. Well there was a bit of clutter, but nothing of significance. Mum and Dad were there, smiling and waving from the garden, where they were hanging out the washing. ‘What were they doing there in the garden?’ George thought. A mouse suddenly ran across the kitchen floor and George shrieked, a girly, high-pitched sound and then coughed. He chased it under the cooker with a tea-towel, then set a trap for it. ‘That’ll get the bugger’ he said under his breath.
Mum and Dad were still in the garden. They had never been to Wilstead before. They had died years ago. ‘What are they doing?’ George thought. He became aware that he was a bit damp on his chest and looked down to see that he had spilt some custard from desert. ‘Oh, bugger!’ George exclaimed and mopped it up with the dishcloth. The television was on and they were showing the news, it was a clip from World War II, celebrating VJ Day. The National Memorial Arboretum was amass with people and was shown between the shots of the devastation in the Far East. Skinny, skinny men stood in a line, supporting each other. Some had wooden legs but they all smiled; they were being freed.
‘Oh! Oh!’ George groaned as he woke. The flashbacks from his time as a Far East Prisoner of War were beginning to take over again. He shook his head and was suddenly wide awake, morphine or not.
He looked at his pajama top. There was blood from his constant coughing. ‘Oh dear, what am I to do?’ George remarked to himself. He reached out for his buzzer and pressed it.
About half an hour later Edyta came into George’s room and turned the call light off so calm was restored. Edyta was a young, Polish woman, in her mid-twenties and very adept at her job. Today, however, she was the only one on the shift and was in a mad hurry, dashing between the rooms and filling in paperwork. Edyta saw that George was coughing and sat him up a bit better.
‘That is better George’, she said in her rich accent.
‘Oh Dyta, I am not very well today’, George gasped.
‘That would be the tablets and the warm air in here. I will open the window and we will turn up the oxygen. That will make George feel better, won’t it?’ Edyta gazed into George’s eyes, her long lashes flicking and examining his face. ‘George, what did you have for lunch? You have some stains on your top. I will take off and put in washing for you, my George.’
Edyta changed George’s top and George weakly gasped as the oxygen eased his breathing. He had managed a little bite earlier, before his dream. He thought of the weak chicken soup that Monica had helped him to eat. It was quite satisfying for George. He pushed his memories into the depths of his mind, where they had remained for 95 years and settled down to sleep. He didn’t talk about his memories; he didn’t want to, and he didn’t want to burden anyone with them. They were his memories, alone.
As he lay there, quite content, George thought of happier times with his wife Doris. Dot had died fifteen years ago. She had heart trouble and after undergoing a bypass had finally succumbed to a heart attack, she went peacefully, in hospital. Dot and George had tried to have children in their younger years but had no joy. They had eventually adopted a son, called Peter in 1952. He was a three year old boy and had been given up by his mother after she felt she could not support both her little one and herself on her own.
Peter was a great joy to George and Dot and he grew up to be a successful entrepreneur. He had emigrated to America in 1984 but at this time inexplicably disappeared, cutting all contact with his parents. George and Dot took a long while to come to terms with this but eventually came to cherish the years they had, had together, forgiving and forgetting in their old age. It still tugged at George’s heart though when he wondered what Peter was doing now and whether he was well?
George’s life had been a full one. He may well have had tragedy, but who didn’t? He had come to accept that a troubled life made an interesting one, where challenges were overcome and fought, not like today, people give up too easily, he thought.
He dozed and smiled, thinking of Dot when she was young, just after his return from the war. These were happy times, he worked hard in the brick-yards at Stewartby, building his strength up and recovering from years of starvation and illness from his captivity. Dot didn’t know what he had been through, he kept it that way, better to protect her from those memories. So, George had made the best of it, he supported his family and they earned enough to enjoy the odd holiday.
George was instantly back on the beach at Kimmeridge, Dorset. It was a clear, sunny day and the sea gently lapped at the shore. Dot was in her swimming costume, her long blonde hair gently cascading down her back and elegantly tip-toeing into the water. George joined her and they swam, laughed and splashed each other with the salt water, refreshingly cool in the summer heat. The rolling Dorset hillside enveloped them in the sheltered cove and the only other couple enjoyed a kiss under their sunshade. How he longed to escape this bed and be back there now.
After a peaceful sleep George was awakened by the clatter of dinner being served. Today it was beef stew and dumplings, with a few greens and boiled potatoes. Edyna had been joined on her shift by Stewart and he came to feed George. He sat by his bedside and chatted about the football. They put the television on to watch Chelsea v. Arsenal and Stewart took his time feeding George so he could see the match until half time.
‘And it’s a goal! George! A strike from Drogba!’ Stewart jumped up with George’s knife and fork and pushed them into the air in a celebratory dance. ‘Take that, you arse holes! Come on you Blues! Georgie eats a dumpling on you!’ Stewart fed George a dumpling. It was nice, George thought and he laughed. His cough had settled a bit and he was feeling a bit better with the additional oxygen.
Edyna popped her head in at 6pm and shouted ‘Stewart you slacking Dupek! Idiota! Come back and help me clear up, now!’
Stewart still managed to weedle it out until half time and then tucked George into bed to let him sleep. George didn’t have another wash today, he was exhausted and Edyna and Stewart thought he was quite clean now after his day’s mishaps. He settled down and drifted off, into the night.
About the author
Amanda has been writing since childhood and along with short stories she writes her Missy Dog charity series, poetry, non-fiction and horror. You can find her here:
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