Tag Archives: Stories

Foolish Old Man – The Sweet Scent of Spring…

The flowers in the lobby look a little sad today. They are drooping and falling onto the table. But the scent hits me as soon as I entered the seventh floor lobby.

The sweet-smelling purple flowers fill the room with life, if only for a moment.

Stepping off the elevator and into the lobby, the only person I see is Kirk. With his back to the elevator, he seems to sense that it is me…

“those are Violets you smell…” he said “I ought to know! I’ve trimmed them this morning as I have done for forty-seven seasons!” he continued as-matter-of-factly.

“Hi Kirk! I….” I squeezed in, but he just continued…

“Forty-seven springs of bloom did I tender!” He pauses as if all of a sudden lost in his own thoughts.

“Even in Nam I grew them! I picked them every morning and placed them on the net of my helmet…”

Wait a second! He’s not talking to me! he’s just recounting his memories. Re-living the moments that the scent of the violets brings.

“Nope! Nam couldn’t kill that…” Now Kirk seems to pause for a second and that causes me to wonder, “they could not kill his plants or his spirit?”

That moment lasted for a few minutes and then all of a sudden a happy moment seems to sneak in. A slim smile graces his somber face as if a water leak just sprung thru a crack in the solid stone wall…

“We even had Violets at my oldest’s wedding!” he joyfully shares.

“Every Spring my daughters used to wake up to the sweet scent of violets in our home. I don’t know why, but slowly the weight of the years and the slipping of the months seem to make the sweet scent just fade away.” he stops as almost to ponder that thought

“I don’t know why, but Violets just seemed to be around less and less till one day…”

Kirk now stopped!

I waited but the pause just lingered.

“…till one day what, Kirk? what happened?” I implored to know. He never reveals any bits about his past, but when moments slip out like this, well I am anxious to know.

“One day…

My dear, sweet Betty.. .

was gone.”

Kirk stopped all together. The trip down memory lane ended and he just slumped forward in his chair. Kirk reverted back to being a resident at the nursing home and the only thing running now is the drool down his cheek.

So sad to see them just stop like that. But even sadder is that something caused them to shutdown those memories.

The memories are repressed, almost as a way to not hurt any longer.

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Foolish Old Man – #5

“I’m going to lunch. You want me to get you something?” asks my assistant Dani. A few moments of silence sits in the air as Dani waits for my reply. “What did you say – lunch, is it that time already?” I reply faking a happy distracted mood. Dani seems to be worried for me now and not sure what to say. “What’s the matter? You have been so distracted all day long.”

“Oh. nothing, I just got off the phone with Mercy and I got some sad news.” Again a few seconds of silence as I stare at my computer screen and ponder what Mercy just said. The words “Kirk’s daughters are busy right now and could not talk to me. But they gave me their OK to put him in Hospice.” Wow! This left me feeling totally empty. How can they be so unconcerned.

I suddenly realize that Dani is waiting for me to continue. “Nothing really!” I reply, forcing an even more insecure smile. She stares me down to tell her the truth “It’s just that Mercy had to take Kirk to the hospital & she just gave me some bad news.” Dani pulls up a chair and immediately sits down, almost as if to say – Tell me more

“Mercy just had to put Kirk in Hospice.” Dani & I are just sitting there staring at each other – not sure what to say. I’m sitting there silently thinking, was it Kirk that I was waiting for at the gates of heaven?

“Oh my God! Hospice? Isn’t Kirk that older gentleman that Mercy takes care of?” Dani adds. Before I could reply she continues. “Why is Mercy the one registering him into Hospice? Isn’t his family supposed to be there to do it?” This question hit me hard. Kirk has no one – here. He finds himself all alone & the only person to love & care for him is Mercy.

It hit home for me & my mind immediately flashes to a future of where my life is heading. I am so wrapped up in my worries. So wrapped up in myself & circumstances that I leave people aside. Paying the bills and making my business work can’t be the only things I devote my time to if I want my family to be there for me. I saw myself – in my future – as Kirk is right now!

I see myself laying in a hospital bed. I’m a frail old man, laying there with all kinds of wires poking into my body, and thick tubes hanging out of my nose. There are loads of machines that seem to be monitoring all my vital signs. Nurses are urgently dashing in and out of the room. There is plenty of activity going on as people are taking care of me. I am seeing this as I’m floating over my bed looking down at myself. I see one nurse taking my pulse while another nurse is preparing the heart defibrillator. Everything is beeping like crazy! The monitor alarms going off and the life line on the screen all of a sudden goes… flat!

I see the doctor leaning over me, trying to listen for my breath. “That’s OK nurse. We’re not going to need that now.” He says and just pauses for a second, As if to make sure that this is his final decision.

“He’s gone.”

Then everything goes silent! No beeping, no alarms going off. Nothing!

I can’t hear a sound and things seem to be in slow motion and foggy now. I look around the room and all I see is sterile white walls and the coldness of all the metallic equipment. Not one bouquet of flower to add color to my world, nor there to soften the scent in the air. Not one card or picture to breakup the sterile white-ness of my space.

And worse of all – not one person crying for me as my soul drifts out of my body. Wher is Mercy and Marc? Have I chased them away?

What have I done with my life?

As I drift away all there is, is a soft song that fills the air. I had the radio tuned to a classic rock station before all this started. And up until now I did not even hear that radio.

But now…

the music just fills my soul. The serenity of the moment and the peace in nothingness fills me. The only thing I can focus on is the lyrics of this song playing:

Isn’t life strange
A turn of the page
A book without light
Unless with love we write
To throw it away
To lose just a day
The quicksand of time
You know it makes me want to cry cry, cry.

Wish I could be in your heart
To be one with your love
Wish I could be in your eyes
Looking back – there you were…

– Moody Blues (Isn’t Life Strange)

As I ascend past the ceiling of my room, the sounds of the room start to fade away. The lyrics, now just a distant memory, makes me wonder – if some of those, that I’ve left behind long ago, who shared my happiest moments – ever think about me. I start to cry and weep from all the loneliness I’ve created around me, as I drift away for all eternity.

“What’s the matter?” Dani questions, shocking me back to the present moment. “Why are you crying?” Dani reaches over and hands me a tissue to dry my tears. As my mind settles back to my present day reality, I get frightened by that future. I need to do something so that my future does not look like that! As I land back into my body, I feel compelled to answer Dani. “No, Kirk’s daughters live in California and in New Jersey. They are busy and cannot be here to put him in Hospice. We are his family here. He is my father-in-law; my mother; my cousin. He is all that I know – all that I’ve lost – all that I am. I need to care for him now.”

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Foolish Old Man – #4 – Monday Morning

(Another portion of my short story…)

"What a beautiful morning!" exclaimes mercy. "Argh!" I reply. "I'm still in bed. Let me sleep!" I yell back as I cover by eyes with the warm toasty blanket. As I'm dozing off, Mercy decides to continue! "What a nice sunny day. Too bad, you're missing out on such a lovely typical Florida morning!" In spite of my plea to let me sleep, she continues. "I forgot to tell you. I need to take Kirk to the doctor's office for a followup. Can you pickup Marc after school today?" "Argh! Let me sleep!" and at that moment I roll over and cover my whole head." I'll call you later! Bye honey – luv ya!"

Finally some peace and quite! I think to myself. Now I can get a few more minutes of sleep. Finally, I close my eyes and doze off again. But in what felt like only minutes, the alarm rings! Beep!Beep!Beep!Beep!

"Shit! I can't believe this. Now I have to get up!

So this is how my Monday morning started this week. I just blow it off, though, and start my week anyway – what else can I do. I grab my coffee mug and get in the car. As I’m driving to the office my cell phone rings. I grab it and am ready to answer the phone when all of a sudden the traffic stops to a grind. I almost dropped the phone and hurry to pick it up and answer it!

“What! Mercy,” I answer. "Hi honey. How's your day going?" As I'm ready to yell and let her know how my day is going, I hear some sadness in her voice "what's the matter?" I ask her. "There's a problem with Kirk! The doctor is rushing him to the hospital." At that moment my heart just dropped into my stomach. I didn't know what to say. "You want me to come with you?" I asked. "No, that's ok. Kirk looks fine! I think its only a precaution that the doctor wants to take. He's ok I'lll call you later to update you. Bye"

As she hung up the phone I get the sinking feeling that things are not going to be ok today. See last night I had another one of my vivid dreams. I dreamt that I was standing at the gates of heaven receiving the newcomers. It’s a beautiful and euphoric moment full of joy and excitement! The feeling of happiness is like I’ve never felt before! I am the happiest I’ve ever been! My goodness, I’m standing at the gates of heaven with St. Peter, and my task is to welcome everyone into heaven. I cannot describe the greatness of the experience and the oneness of heaven. The only word that comes to mind is Nirvana!

I’m there greeting and welcoming people into heaven, when all of a sudden I’m feeling a little distracted. I continue greeting the newcomers and I just become aware that I am waiting on somebody – someone that I know – is expected to arrive.

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Foolish Old Man… – 3rd installment

(Another portion of my short story… Please let me know what you think.)

Kirk finds himself drifting off to the days when he was a good boy. He reminisces about the wooden mop he so proudly rode, as his horse, off to the sunset. Those were the days when life was good. Those were the days that were so rudely taken from him.

At that moment Mercy walks in to pickup Marc. “Hi Kirk”, she says in a soft soothing voice. Instantly Kirk snaps out of his fantasy and enters his reality. Mercy’s voice reminded him of his daughter’s voice & the sentiments of anger and bitterness hits him like the cold chill on a bitter winter’s day. Immediately his facial expression changes. The right brow drooped a little, the fists started to grip the sheets tightly and the hairs on the back of his neck came to attention. Here he finds himself reaching for the past. He reaches deep into the tunnels of his life and pulls out anger. “What are you bothering me for!? Take this kid home so that he does not bother the good folk who are trying to get some rest!”

Mercy sees both sides of Kirk. She glanced in earlier to check on Marc & saw Kirk enjoying a truly innocent expression of love. Now only to be broken by the anger of a bitter old fool! How much more can she take? How much longer can she deal with her father’s illness and Kirk’s self-pity. She asks herself these questions more and more as the days go by. This place, this job, this man! are getting to her and are starting to get to Marc.

Marc had befriended another older gentleman before & as they were growing closer together, the gentleman died. That day, Marc shows up to the nursing home and runs to Carl’s room to show him his new teddy bear – only to find an empty, freshly made bed. His belongings were no longer lined up on the bureau across from the bed either. “Where’s Carl?” is all he said – all that needed to be said. It became clear for him that Carl will no longer be there to play with him. He cried for days. I don’t want him to experience that again with Kirk – how about the day his grandfather passes away? How is that going to shape Marc’s future?

“I can’t do this anymore” exclaims Mercy. “I need to find a better way!”

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Foolish Old Man… – 2nd installment

(Another portion of my short story…)

The next day Mercy was not working for Kirk, because she needed to admit her father into the nursing home for some physical therapy. She’s an old pro at this. This is not the first time she’s admitting someone into the nursing home. See Mercy’s son, Marc, has lost his grandmother about a year-and-a-half ago. She had been ill since 1997 with Alzheimers and slowly deteriorated – until her body could not take it anymore. Mercy had been taking care of her mother for years at her father’s home. Feeding her lunch, changing her diapers and putting her to sleep at nights. But when her father could not endure the trials of homecare, Mercy & her father had a major struggle with what to do next.

Everybody had their opinions on what to do. “I would NEVER do that to my mother” was offered up as a suggestion. “that’s the last place I would put somebody I love” was another suggestion. But nobody was dealing with the day-to-day struggles of taking care of your mother with Alzheimers. Nobody else had to put up with the cursing and screaming that injected negativity into their lives. Nobody else had their heart broken when her mother would answer “no I do NOT have a daughter – you could not possibly be mine.”

Deciding to admit her into a nursing home was the most heart-renching decision Mercy & her dad have ever had to make. After her passing, Mercy’s father could not take the loneliness and suffered a stroke. Today Marc’s grandfather is admitted into the nursing home for physical therapy, in order to recover from the stroke.

Marc comes to visit his grandfather, but the hollers and screams of pain scare him away. So much pain and suffering for a child of four to understand. So he plays in the pristine white hallway in front of Kranky Kirk’s room. This space is full of heart defibrillating machines and lifesaving emergency devices; full of nurses running back and forth; full of light and activity but void of life. Marc plays in his world of endless possibilities and does not ponders about the lifelessness of the space he is in. All this noise of possibilities shatters Kirk’s loneliness. By play fighting with his G.I. Joe action figure Marc disturbs Kirk’s world. “He has an M16 rifle.” he shares with Kirk. Kirk calls him over by asking “what is all the ruckus about, Marc?” Marc continues talking about the M16. You know I had a rifle too, in the war, shares Kirk. The two share war stories – Marc with his fantasies, Kirk with his realities – all in all, just keeping each other company and at the same time comforting one another’s pain.

“Have you always been old? Why does your mom call you Kranky Kirk?” asks Marc. No, laughs Kirk. Kirk shares that his full name is Selkirk Viola, but admits that everybody at the nursing home knows him as Kranky Kirk. I’m not that old – Did you know that I was born August 21st, 1945? And that I used to be a flower child – but Kirk jokes that he, unlike Marc, was a late bloomer. While Marc plays with his G.I. Joe, Kirk tells stories of his days in Vietnam when he would find himself picking flowers for his rifle, while in the middle of the killing fields. This kept him from thinking of the dog tags landing around him, expecting fully to one day seeing his “Viola, Selkirk” tag resting on the ground next to the violets.

Here is where he found his tough shell, which he uses valiantly as a shield to protect him from the sights of death.

Death has become a familiar foe. Everyday the sights and sounds of a nursing home draw Kirk further away from reality. Daily, ambulances pickup those departing for a better place. Their trips – only a reminder of Kirk’s own inevitable destiny. The only thing that brings him back into his day is the times that Marc and his “Desert Storm fatigues” G.I. Joe come to visit his grandpa. On those days Mercy takes care of her father while Marc & Kirk sit and talk.

Marc continues to play with his action figure. “Santa wrote me a letter” Marc shares with Kirk. “Santa does not…” Kirk, realizing that he is about to destroy Marc’s innocence, stops himself. “What? Santa doesn’t come to your room?” Marc asks innocently. “Don’t worry I’ll ask Santa to come & see you – but you have to be a good boy!”

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