Harry sat steadfast in his favorite armchair, looking determinedly out across the courtyard, his grey stubble chin jutting out like chiseled marble, his lips pursed tightly together. He nervously rubbed his hands back and forth across the floral linen fabric on the arm of the chair. It was barely holding together, the piping on the edges somehow clinging to the last remaining strands of fiber. Holes erupted from the worn linen like tiny explosions, revealing tufts of soiled white padding that had been so masterfully applied some time back in ’47. It was more than threadbare- this familiar purveyor of comfort, but Harry loved that chair and remembered Eleanor choosing it all those years ago. It was their first joint purchase.
Old Harry had an impressive physique in his youth and was inherently muscular and broad shouldered. But age had not been all that kind to him. His once engaging stature was now fragile, merely holding together what was left of him, turned inward and receding. Harry’s dark eyes were once deep endless pools, but now appeared like pale brown earth. The white rings that now edged them were like leaching salt from the soil extremities. Harry’s tanned skin, although still olive was now a patchwork quilt of discolorations and displayed the deeply etched lines of a weathered life. But still, within this failing mortal shell survived a pride and determination that not even time could temper.
The front door suddenly opened wide with a high-pitched creak and Terry burst through carrying an old cardboard box filled with dusty LP’s. He looked furtively down the empty hallway, then poked his head around the bedroom door, but Harry was nowhere to be seen. Terry then made his way through the stacked boxes and eclectic memorabilia in the lounge-room toward the sun-room at the rear of the flat. There was Harry, glued to that chair as always. Terry ambled over and crouched down beside him but Harry didn’t flinch, he simply remained staring through the glass doors with stubborn eyes, looking at nothing in particular.
‘Dad?’ said Terry, softly. ‘What do you want to do with these old records?’
Harry didn’t turn nor speak. He simply stuck out his chin defiantly, just a little further than before, wiggling it from side to side as he gnashed his few remaining teeth together. Terry lowered his head and sighed for a moment, then peered into his Dad’s lost expression. With the box resting precariously on his knee, he placed his hand over Harry’s forearm and squeezed it reassuringly.
‘Everything’s going to be alright, Dad.’
Harry snorted indignantly in response, his expression unyielding. Terry relinquished his vain attempt at communication, rescued the box from his knee and rose slowly to his feet, looking down on his dad with sorrow in his eyes. He felt completely helpless but worse, he felt a gnawing, insidious guilt deep down inside.
‘I’ll take care of everything. You don’t have to worry about a thing,’ said Terry, sadly returning to the garage.
Val, his sister met him on the way out. ‘Is he OK?’
Terry shrugged and looked soulfully into her rather matron-like eyes. They were clear and resolute but as always appeared a little cold and hard.
‘He won’t utter a word.’ Val just returned a scathing look and put both hands on her hips, fed up with all the drama.
‘He’s just being stubborn. We’re doing this for him, for God’s sake! If he’s going to act like a bloody child, then we’ll just have to treat him like one,’ she finished, storming into the house to start cleaning the kitchen.
Harry had heard them talking and although he couldn’t quite make out all of the words, he certainly felt their intent.
‘Eighty three isn’t a bad age for a bloke,’ he thought. ‘Life’s been fair- had the good with the bad, but when your own kids turn on ya. Well….there’s not much point livin after that.’
Harry felt a tear welling in his eye and quickly wiped it away, looking fleetingly over his shoulder to make sure that no one was there.
Authors note: Its a sad circumstance when your parents get too old to take care of themselves, and so many emotions are intertwined in carrying out what can be seen as pure betrayal. This but a snippet.
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