Mrs. Crawford

Submitted into Contest #237 in response to: Write a story about a first or last kiss.... view prompt


Friendship Inspirational Sad

I don't want to do this today. I should just keep driving to the coast–not tell anyone. Jim wouldn’t feed the cats, though. Dammit! He's so unreliable. I can't leave my babies in a lurch. Why did I choose a man-child? Damn my weakness for blue eyes and tight jeans.

I pulled my Prius into the parking lot and took my usual spot near the back entrance, in the shade. It was 6:30 am, but it was already starting to get hot. Going to be a scorcher, I thought, as I pulled out my ID badge, swiped it, and pulled open the building door.

“Good morning, Anita,” I said as I entered Holly Hills Retirement Home. I walked to the breakroom to put my purse in my locker and got ready for my day. Anita was sitting, sipping coffee in the office while I checked the schedule and prepared for my rounds.

It’s been particularly hard to be mentally ready for work these days. My job as a nurse was something I truly enjoyed, but it was very challenging. Patients taxed one’s brain. They are often completely reliant on your direct care to function. On a day-in, day-out basis, it was grueling. Yes, there were rewards. Patients were appreciative, sometimes becoming your friend, but those friendships were often short, and loss was painful. It was better not to get too invested, but this was the hardest thing for me. I invested so much of myself in my patients, often to my own detriment. That’s why I was so resentful of my man-child husband. When I came home after giving everything I had at work, I needed help with life. I needed another responsible adult to pick up after themselves, to save money for the future, and to honor promises made. Hell no to kids until Jim steps up. I don’t have the strength.

“Sandy, can you check on Mrs. Crawford first? She had a rough night. I don’t think she slept, and she kept yelling and moaning for Robert. Oh, and this...” Anita held up her arm and showed me a nasty purple bruise on her tricep. “She screamed, ‘Got you good!’ as she twisted with glee.”

“Ouch. That looks painful,” I replied. “Of course, I’ll check on her. Just be ready if I need assistance.”

“I’ll send Tony. I’m done with her, and I’m off in 30 minutes,” she frowned, then went back to doing her paperwork.

I knocked and announced, “Time for your bath, Mrs. Crawford,” as I cautiously entered the room. I’m not quite sure why I was being so timid entering her room. I mean, Mrs. Crawford was 99 years old. It’s not like she was going to ambush me like a ghoulish banshee. She acted like one on her bad days, but I shouldn't assume the worst. Stay positive. Today will be one of her good days. Please. I pushed aside the image of that purple bruise and convinced myself she was probably sleeping. I was just being polite, not wanting to intrude too obtrusively.

Like every morning, I was expecting to find Mrs. Crawford sitting in her rocking chair or in her bed, half coherent, appearing barely alive, waiting for her inevitable end to arrive. This was Mrs. Crawford's wished-for event, and she, without being prompted, told anyone who came within earshot of her. Her eagerly awaited passing would transport her back into the arms of her dearest and long-departed love of her life, Robert. There wasn’t a person I worked with that didn’t support her desire to be with her Robert. Not because she was a handful to deal with but because her quality of life wasn’t great. On this morning, however, when I stepped into room 116, I saw Mrs. Crawford standing upright and tall, as strong as she was in her youth, combing her long, thin silver hair while lovingly gazing at herself in the vanity mirror on her vintage make-up table.

“Good morning, Sandy. You look lovely today,” said Mrs. Crawford as she smiled at me. “I will be needing my bath today, and after, I would love your keen eye to help me figure out what I should wear to dinner tonight. Robert will be here, and I just want to look beautiful for him.”

“Oh?” I exclaimed as I played along, keeping an eye on her sharp nailed hands. “Well, of course, I’d love to help you. We can go through your dresses and see what looks best on you.”

“Thank you, darling. I have missed my Robert. I’m so excited to be back in his arms after long years of separation. You know, he was the love of my life. The day that he left, he told me he’d be waiting for me, and we would walk together in the light, holding hands, discovering what lay ahead on our next adventure. And today is the day I will rejoin him.”

Helen Crawford, the sometimes charming, sometimes terrifying, 99-year-old patient at Holly Hills Retirement Home, beamed with excitement. Today was one of her good days, but I suddenly felt a chill after hearing of Mrs. Crawford’s planned dinner with her husband. I couldn’t help but think she was having a premonition, and today may indeed be her last. I brushed off the thought and started to prepare to bathe her. We all knew Mrs. Crawford’s greatest desire was to be reunited with the love of her life, Robert. She talked about him every chance she could. She had no one else. She had no other family or friends. She was the last of her line, and she wanted more than anything to be back with her Robert. If today was to be her last, then I would make her beautiful for her Robert.

“Tell me about your husband. What kind of man was he?” I asked as I helped Mrs. Crawford lay down on the bed.

“Oh, my goodness. I knew from the moment I first saw those beautiful blue eyes he was trouble,” she began. “He was so handsome, ambitious, and strong, and he couldn’t keep his hands off me. I told him he needed to be a gentleman and preserve my honor, or I’d kick him to the curb. He shaped right up, and after a proper courtship, he asked my father for my hand in marriage.” Helen giggled, “Truth be told, I wouldn’t have kicked him to the curb. He was a dreamboat.”

We both chuckled, “If you don’t mind me asking, did you ever have any troubles?”

“Oh dear, did we ever,” she touched my arm, then continued. “When you’re married almost seventy years, of course, you have troubles. The man was born in a barn. It was like a tornado when he’d come home from work. He spent every red cent he had whenever he could. He always promised he was saving up for a big trip to Europe, but we were never able to go.”

I realized Mrs. Crawford and I had a lot in common when it came to our men. My Jimmy left everything he touched in a different spot. He was a master at making piles. He didn’t think farther than tomorrow, so saving money for our big vacation was not a focus. He just never seemed to have time to accomplish his list of promises; consequently, they never got done. As I helped Mrs. Crawford roll on her side so I could wash her back, I asked, “So, how did you deal with his issues?”

“Issues? I wouldn’t call them issues. More like attributes. My Robert’s mind worked on so many topics simultaneously that he couldn’t properly focus on any one. So, he was sort of all over the place. I hear it has a name now. Something like D-D-A or, H-A-D-A.”

“ADHA,” I interjected.

“Yes, that’s it. The man was brilliant-so smart; he just needed help focusing. So, I helped him make checklists and organize his workspaces. It was more work for me, but it helped him. Together, we were a team–better.”

“What did you do about money?”

“If he were out gambling or carousing with the boys, that would have been one thing, but he wasn’t. He was constantly buying me flowers and buying our little girl gifts. He was also a generous soul. If he saw someone down on their luck, he’d toss them the change he had in his pocket. He was a good man. It always made me proud when he’d do good things for others. I was proud to be his wife.” I helped her sit up after she was clean and adjusted her robe as she continued. “When our daughter became ill, he took on another job to help pay the medical bills, but we lost her. He never was the same after that. The thought of going to Europe just didn’t seem as exciting to either of us. So, we simplified our dreams and our lives. We stayed local, making our community a better place. But, most importantly, we came together, and we worked through our grief. Again, we were a team, better together.”

Mrs. Crawford stood up and slowly walked to her dresser as I became lost in thought. Maybe I'm being selfish? Not really fair to put all the responsibility on Jim. Being a cop was at least as stressful as being a nurse. Ok, maybe at times, it's a little more. At least I don't have to wear a gun. I suddenly realized I needed to be more mindful and consider Jim’s need for downtime as well as my own. I loved Jim. “Mrs. Crawford, you’ve really made me think about my rela…” I stopped and grabbed Mrs. Crawford, who had started to slump.

Mrs. Crawford’s energy changed suddenly, and she shakily asked, “Dear, do you mind helping me back to my rocking chair? I’m feeling a little weak.” I was able to get her to her chair, making her comfortable.

“Never give up faith in those who love you, Sandy. True love means compromise. You may not get everything you want, but if you are willing to compromise on things that don’t really matter and keep the things that do, you will have all you ever need and so much more.”

Mrs. Crawford’s gaze became distant, and her breathing and speech became labored, but her smile and the light in her eyes glowed as bright as ever. “I see his face, my Robert; he’s come for me.” She reached for my face and struggled to say, “Thank you, my dear. You will be blessed for the love you give to have given”

I knelt in front of Mrs. Crawford; my eyes were full of tears. I knew it was time. I gently kissed Mrs. Crawford’s trembling hand. “Go, be with him. Live together in eternity. I love you, my dear friend.”

And with that, Mrs. Crawford was gone.

February 14, 2024 05:26

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Alexis Araneta
14:05 Feb 22, 2024

“Never give up faith in those who love you, Sandy. True love means compromise. You may not get everything you want, but if you are willing to compromise on things that don’t really matter and keep the things that do, you will have all you ever need and so much more.” - How true ! This was very poignant, David. I love the way you described Mrs. Crawford and Robert's relationship. I wish I saw more of the effect the conversation had on Sandy, though. Either way, great job!


David Winfield
14:32 Feb 22, 2024

I'd like to develop it further someday. I'm interested in seeing how this affects Sandy as well. Thank you for your kind words.


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Heather Kenealy
00:00 Feb 22, 2024

Beautiful and sad. I recently lost my husband, and I found it easy to put myself in Mrs Crawford's place, imagining myself at 99 waiting to reunite with him. I thought the ending was a tiny bit rushed and I might've liked to see more of Mrs Crawford's joy at seeing Robert's face, but otherwise very touching.


David Winfield
00:22 Feb 22, 2024

Thanks for your feedback. I think it would be an improvement to add to her vision of Robert. Great suggestion.


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Danie Holland
12:53 Feb 21, 2024

“Never give up faith in those who love you, Sandy. True love means compromise. You may not get everything you want, but if you are willing to compromise on things that don’t really matter and keep the things that do, you will have all you ever need and so much more.” - such a good lesson! Too often we find ourselves obstinate and unwilling to think about another's point of view or needs in light of our own. The balance between two people's needs and wants is probably a fine line sometimes, but through compassion and understanding and a littl...


David Winfield
19:59 Feb 21, 2024

Mrs. Crawford is my hero, and I hope to live up to her wisdom. Though she is a figment of my imagination, I think she is saying no one is perfect, and compromise can be a beautiful thing as long as it is done together and with equity. Glad you liked my story. Cheers!


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J. D. Lair
00:53 Feb 18, 2024

Mrs. Crawford is a wise woman! Some thought-provoking adages in here David. Well done! Bittersweet, but I’m glad she’s with her love in the end. :)


David Winfield
17:55 Feb 18, 2024

Thank you for your kind comments. I'm proud her last day found her in a state where she could hand off the torch to the next generation. For her, 'compromise' was not a dirty word. Clearly, both sides compromised for the betterment of their marriage. This was her learned truth. Sandy will have to decide if she receives as much as she gives. As Mrs. Crawford said, it should be a team effort. Cheers!


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