Contest #61 shortlist ⭐️

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Drama

It’s time to visit my father again.


I hate going there, hate visiting him when he’s no longer the man who raised me. The care home is only a fifteen-minute drive, but I avoid that route even when I need to go shopping. My mother phones me twice a day, always to check on how my father is, but never to check on me. I understand why. It’s hard for her, difficult to accept that her husband can’t remember the woman he married.


I pull up into the car park, turn off the engine, and stare at the wheel for a good five minutes. The care home workers are probably suspicious of me. I’m sat in my metallic blue Kia Sorento, which is massive, and dwarves all the Minis parked beside me. I tap the wheel one last time, take a deep breath, grab my bag, and leave. After making it all the way here, I know I should go inside and visit my dad.


The care home seems like a nice enough place. I’ve only visited once before, but I’m still shocked by how warm the yellow of the wallpaper is, and how gentle the staff are. Today, there’s a lady only slightly older than me, grabbing my arm and chattering away without a care in the world. I don’t listen as she speaks, instead staring at her blonde curly hair. It’s greying on top, and I can’t help but wonder when all my hair will disappear. I still have a few strands, but they’re precarious, and I’m sure I’m going to wake up one day without a single hair left. I had jet black hair when I was younger, but by the time I hit twenty-four, it had started to recede. My father had told me there were new surgeries to help if I didn’t want to be bald by the time I was twenty-six, but I’d refused. We’d never really gotten on, and visiting him in his old age was my apology.


“Mr Hawkins, if you’d like to follow me, your father can see you now,” the nurse said. Her tone was jolly, sweet, and almost too fake in an environment like this. I didn’t understand how she could keep up the chirpy act. Despite the pleasant atmosphere, I just felt like I wanted to run and hide and never return. Still, I nodded at her.


She led me into a comfortable-looking room. There were several armchairs scattered around the room, all different colours, with two cushions on each. In the centre was a massive rectangular table, with see-through boxes underneath. In the boxes I could see board games and dominos and packs of cards. It felt as if I was visiting a friend, rather than a man virtually on his deathbed.


My father was on one of the comfortable-looking chairs. His round glasses sat perched on his nose, and his eyebrows were raised as he scanned a newspaper. He was muttering something to a poor social worker, who wore a strained smile as the staff lady and I approached. As I neared, I could hear him muttering about the lack of sports news, and tried to refrain from rolling my eyes. That was my father, alright.


The social worker glanced up in relief as we approached, and then said goodbye to my dad, who coughed in response. I patted my bag in my hand as I waited for him to address me. I’d learnt not to address him first the last time I’d visited. My dad’s memory was fragile at the best of times, and a shock wasn’t needed for his system. The staff member waited with me until my dad closed the newspaper and then she addressed him with a smile.


“Hi, Martin. You’ve got a visitor. It’s your son, Jeremy. He’s come to visit you, isn’t that nice?” she asked. Her voice was a bit patronising for my liking, but my dad didn’t seem to care. He was too busy looking me up and down.


“Son?” he said, and I felt a weird sense of pride. The last time I’d visited my father had just stared at me, unseeing, as if I didn’t exist. It was the weirdest sensation. I think he’d thought I was there to give him his dinner because he kept glancing at the clock and then rubbing his stomach. Never one for words, my father.


“Yes, dad, it’s me,” I said. The staff member had left, and it was just me and him. “How are you doing? Are they taking care of you? Giving you all your medication?”


“I’m fine, as I always am,” my father said gruffly. “There’s nothing wrong with me.”


That was my father all over too. Never admitting he had a problem, always in the right. It had always bothered me when I was young, but I’d never said anything to him about it. He wouldn’t have listened to me, anyway. At least now he had an actual excuse.


“What were you reading?” I asked, trying to keep up the conversation. I’d never been good at small talk.


“What?” he snapped.


“In the newspaper, just now,” I said. “What were you reading? Any good news?”


“I… I don’t remember,” my father said, and I frowned. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to forget everything a minute after I’d done it. “Was I reading a newspaper?”


“Yes, you were reading one when I came over,” I told him. I wanted to help, to help him remember such a mundane thing. “Don’t you remember?”


“No, no,” my father shook his head, and then stared at me again. I went cold as he looked me up and down, a bemused frown on his face. “I’m sorry, son, who are you?”


It felt like ten buckets of cold water had poured over my body in a second. I felt tears welling up in my eyes, but didn’t dare shed one. If I showed any weakness, my father would take advantage of that, and refuse to listen to me. Still, it hurt to not be recognised by someone I’d known for so long, someone who’d raised me.


“It’s me, dad,” I said. My voice was thick, and I felt any second like I would burst into tears. “Your son, Jeremy. I’m here, like you wanted.”


“I don’t have a son,” my father said. I knew he didn’t mean it, that his memory was fading, that he was regressing back to his past, but it still stung. I wiped my eyes on my shirt sleeve, and blinked a few times, forcing back the tears. “You must have me confused with someone else.”


“No, dad,” I said, shaking my head. “I know you. I know that your favourite meal is a steak and ale pie with boiled potatoes and mushy peas. That your favourite song is ‘Under the Boardwalk’ by the Drifters. That your favourite pudding was mum’s blueberry pie. It’s me, dad. I promise. I’m your son.”


“Blueberry pie?” my father questioned, scratching his chin. “That sounds good. With a nice dollop of cream. Now I’m hungry.”


“I don’t have any pie,” I told him, opening the bag I’d been clutching since I’d entered. “But mum told me to bring some of her cookies along. Ginger snap ones. She said they were your favourite.”


“Ginger snap cookies?” my father asked, staring at my bag as I unloaded the box they were sitting in. “I love ginger snap cookies.”


“Yes, I know,” I said, releasing the lid, and handing him the box.


My father leant forward and took an intense sniff, a smile gracing his face as he took in the scent. I could smell them too, a combination of ginger and nutmeg and cinnamon. They smelled heavenly. My father picked one up and took a bite, letting out a pleased sigh as he ate. I smiled as he picked up another. He held it to his eye and then glanced at me.


“These are just like Velma’s,” he said, smiling.


I jolted. My father had not mentioned my mother once since he’d been in here. I’d heard many a time from my teary mother that he had failed to recognise her when she came to visit him too. But he’d said her name. Just then. I’d heard it loud and clear from where I stood next to him. The cookies had helped him remember her. I knew I had to tell her straight away, but I wanted to see if my father remembered any more.


“Velma?” I questioned.


My father looked up at me, gulped down the rest of his ginger snap cookie, and smiled. “Yes. Velma. My wife. I’ve been married to her for years. I proposed to her just after she made us a batch of these cookies, you know.”


“Oh?” I said, eager for him to continue. I hadn’t heard the proposal story in years, especially not from my father, and I could feel pride bubbling within me. “How did you propose?”


“Well, I got back from working down the mine,” he said, snapping the cookie in his hand and offering me some. I took one. “I was sweaty and disgusting and covered in coal, but Velma didn’t care. She just took my hand, led me into the kitchen, and sat me down to a nice bowl of beef stew. We had these ginger snap cookies for dessert. We ate them in silence, but we were so content. It was then that I knew I had to marry her. So, I put the radio on and asked her to dance with me. Elvis was singing ‘Always On My Mind’, and I was dipping her. She was wearing her nicest dress, blue with flowers, and I was so in love. After the song finished, I kissed her, and asked if she would marry me.”


“And?”


“And she said yes,” my father continued, voice loud and proud. “It was the best day of my life.”


“She sounds like a wonderful woman,” I said, pleased that my dad had remembered something. In all the times of visiting, he’d said nothing about his past. Not to me, or to my mother, or anyone else. Today had been a breakthrough.


“She is,” my father said, nodding. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s lunchtime.”


“Okay,” I said, nodding to one of the social workers to signal I was leaving. “I’ll visit you soon. You can keep the biscuits.”


“Thank you,” my father said, and I smiled at him. It was the first time he’d ever thanked me for something, and he didn’t even know who I was.


“No problem, dad,” I whispered as I left.


I made my way back to my car and let the tears fall. He’d remembered my mother, and I was so happy about it. My mother had been so upset ever since we’d sent my father to that care home, but now there was a chance he’d recognise her when she visited. I had to let her know the good news at once. With a smile, I picked up my phone.

September 28, 2020 14:12

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30 comments

Scout Tahoe
14:14 Oct 09, 2020

Hey, congrats on the shortlist!

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Rambling Beth
16:54 Oct 09, 2020

Thank you so much! I can't believe it. :)

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Ana Govindasamy
18:53 Dec 19, 2020

Awww so sweet! 💕

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Rambling Beth
17:40 Dec 27, 2020

Thank you! <3

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Joe Nyirenda
07:18 Oct 10, 2020

Beautifully told. I love your calm and collected story telling voice. Keep it up

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Rambling Beth
08:17 Oct 10, 2020

Thank you!

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Vajeda Kardar
19:42 Oct 09, 2020

Amazing story and beautiful narration. Congratulations!!!

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Rambling Beth
20:14 Oct 09, 2020

Thank you!

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Madisson James
09:41 Oct 09, 2020

Nice!

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Rambling Beth
10:25 Oct 09, 2020

Thank you!

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Vicky S
04:04 Oct 09, 2020

Hi Beth, After a busy week at work I have managed to read your story and I'm so glad that I did. I work as a nurse in an aged care facility so I can relate to this story. Often I have to see only the clinical side of nursing care otherwise it can become too sad but your story was beautiful and very emotional. Thank you for sharing it.

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Rambling Beth
09:00 Oct 09, 2020

Thank you! You're a great person, it must be very difficult to work there when most outcomes are not so positive. I'm glad you enjoyed. <3

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Vicky S
00:21 Oct 10, 2020

Aww thanks 😷

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Maggie Deese
03:39 Oct 09, 2020

This was so beautiful, Beth. Possibly one of my favorites on this site :') your storytelling was simplistic but in the most powerful way. I loved the way you incorporated the prompt here, having it be the father remembering Velma. This truly was amazing. Well done :)

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Rambling Beth
08:57 Oct 09, 2020

Thank you!

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Mustang Patty
04:12 Oct 08, 2020

Hi there, These stories about parents in nursing homes - Assisted Care, are simply heartbreaking. My own Mom died of cancer over twenty years ago, and though she spent a short time in Hospice care, she didn't lose any memories. Your work reads well. I only found a few stumbling blocks - some wordy sentences and a few stray commas. Thank you for sharing this well-written story, ~MP~

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Rambling Beth
06:39 Oct 08, 2020

Thank you!

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Kristin Neubauer
15:15 Oct 05, 2020

Such a touching and tender story, Beth. My mom was diagnosed with dementia last year and your story reminds me so much of my interactions with her before she passed. You captured all the nuances so beautifully. When she was well, my mother never shared much about her life pre-kids - and I didn't ask - but when she was really ill, I realized that her long-term memory was still intact and I asked her so much about growing up, meeting my dad, etc. It really was a gift amid all the sadness. I loved this.

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Rambling Beth
16:06 Oct 05, 2020

That's a lovely and very bittersweet story. Sorry about your mother but I'm glad you managed to talk with her near the end. ♥

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Bookmark Here
20:45 Sep 29, 2020

This brought back memories of my own Grandfather when he was struggling with Parkinson's disease. He eventually forgot my Grandmother as the disease progressed. Broke my heart every time I took her to visit him. It meant the world to her when he had those rare moments of clarity. Fantastic job!

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Rambling Beth
08:26 Sep 30, 2020

Oh that's really sad. It's very scary what can happen to us when we grow older. I'm sorry that you had to experience it, though, and your poor grandmother. Thank you for the lovely comment. I'm glad that I managed to portray it in a decent way.

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Rayhan Hidayat
06:59 Sep 29, 2020

Damn, everyone is cranking out heart wrenching stories this week 🥺 i’m glad the ending was more happy than not. Dementia is very commonly seen in fiction and I thought you portrayed it just fine. And i love how it isn’t the narrator that goes down memory lane. Keep it up! 😙

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Rambling Beth
08:09 Sep 29, 2020

Thank you! I wanted to portray a slightly happier moment in a difficult subject matter so I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

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Rayhan Hidayat
15:36 Oct 09, 2020

Hey, congrats on the shortlist! 🥳

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Rambling Beth
16:55 Oct 09, 2020

Thank you so much! I still can't believe it. :)

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Megan Sutherland
00:54 Sep 29, 2020

This was so bittersweet! Super sad but I loved it anyway. part 2???? What happens to Martin? Would you mind coming and reading some of my recent stories? Thanksss! Your Reedsy Friend(?), Megan S.

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Rambling Beth
06:10 Sep 29, 2020

Thank you for the comment! I'm not sure if I'm going to write more of this one, so what happens to Martin can be up for interpretation! I'll make sure to read some of your stories soon! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

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Megan Sutherland
11:31 Sep 29, 2020

Yay, thanks! Happy writing!

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Sarah 🖤💖
23:53 Oct 13, 2020

I'm glad this story was shortlisted. You portrayed Alzheimer's in a very skilled way. This story was sad and hopeful at the same time, which for me is really hard!

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Rambling Beth
00:19 Oct 14, 2020

Thank you for such a lovely comment!

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