He blew into the Care Home like a tornado on speed skates. Wild piercing blue eyes, ragged sunburnt skin and flowing white hair that refused to be styled in anything that didn’t suggest pirate, he pouted and shrugged off any help. His name was Raymond.
Not loved by the carers or cooks, his foul mouth and mean attitude kept everyone at bay. Apart from M. No, she couldn’t stand his aloof attitude and found him disturbingly ridiculous – something she told him at every opportunity! Finally, he met a woman who wasn’t afraid to put him in his place. Intrigued and slightly annoyed, Raymond made an effort to talk to this woman that refused to shut her mouth. A steady relationship developed with the two finding a safe ground where they didn’t have to resort to insults.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Raymond was becoming manageable and dare they say it….civil! M complained about his body odour one day. Curses and spinning wheelchair tyres were the only sound to be heard in the communal lounge as he hurled insults at anyone who bothered to turn his way as he sped out of the lounge to the bright morning sun. He sat there, outside, by himself, for the rest of the day. M didn’t care. She said what she said and watched him in disgust. He could feel her brown eyes boring into his scrawny back as he dozed off in the sunshine.
The next day, he appeared in the communal lounge dressed in a fresh polo shirt and clean trousers with carefully groomed pirate hair. M smiled and beckoned to him. He acquiesced and rolled over to her. They spent the rest of the day together until it was time to be put to bed. Days rolled into months and slowly he fell under her spell. She demanded drinks and crisps and he wheeled out of the home just to get them. She smiled like a cat who got the milk. She had her man.
He became besotted, waiting for her and visiting her whenever she was too unwell to travel downstairs. She took care of him, reminding him to bath and cut his hair when it became too long, feigning Einstein’s hairdo. She demanded her children buy him more polo shirts and toiletries. They were happy for a while. Unfortunately traits from the past had a tendency to rear its ugly head.
She would entice the other gents to stop for a chat, just a chat, whilst he sat outside in the sun. They brought gifts; jelly babies and garibaldi biscuits. He watched and anger burned under the leather tanned skin. Blue eyes glowed and he growled as another suitor in a checked shirt and chinos sat near her for a chat. Tantrums started up again and bad language turned many a lady’s cheek pink. His behaviour became as uncontrollable, a repeat of his arrival at the home. His wild hair was a testament to the turmoil within. M couldn’t understand why he behaved in such a way. She loved the game, but it meant nothing to her. She loved him.
The day came when it all changed. Pressed Checkered Shirt sat in his condescending way at her right side, sporting a fresh bag of jelly babies. She giggled happily and munched on the treats, unaware that Raymond watched from the window. He slowly rolled back into the lounge, passing the two pigeons tucked in a cosy corner. Checkered shirt smiled at him as he rolled by, greeting him in a friendly manner. Something snapped. Raymond’s arm swung wide and connected with the semi-toothless grin of Checkered Shirt. M screamed in alarm as the “slap” resounded across the room.
Carers shifted their heavy posteriors, arms flying as they ran to stop the assault. Raymond was pushed back as he screamed at the toothless grin Checkered Shirt offered. A burly carer pinned him to his wheelchair as he tried to reached out again. She threatened him, flexing her biceps in his thin face whilst he spat and screamed abuse. The nurse scrambled into the room, barking orders for him to be locked up in his room until he cooled down. Checkered shirt was assessed for bodily harm and feigned a cool demeanour after the aggressive assault on his person.
Raymond was removed from the Nursing Home within three days. M cried and begged for his return, but it was too late. He was relocated to another home five miles away. The Nursing Home returned to its quiet existence, the troublesome pirate gone forever. M begged to visit him at his new home. When she saw him, they hugged and kissed like teenage lovers trapped in old bodies. Their time was short but precious.
Unfortunately, the story does not have a happy ending. M suffered a near fatal fall, ending up in hospital for five weeks. Little did she know that in that time, Raymond fell ill too. He passed away, alone and unhappy, never to see the woman he loved again. She only found this out on her return to the Nursing Home, lucky enough to survive her battle at the gates of Hades. Checkered Shirt was there with his jelly babies, filling her ears with the sad news of those not lucky enough to have survived the time she was away.
She cries whenever she thinks of him and mentions his name to her family often. They will never know if his family collected his body or said good-bye. They were estranged and he, alone in the world. I often wonder if M wishes she could have joined him. I guess I will never know.
To Raymond, a fearless old man who refused to apologise for who he was at the end of his life. A man unafraid of falling in love again and fighting for the woman he wanted. May his poor soul rest in peace.
Picture from pixgood.com