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October 25, 2018

Assisted Living - A Short Story

By Tom MacLaughlin

He sits in his favorite chair by the window, and looks out across the lawn at the county road, and watches the cars as they travel past.  He thinks back to what it was like to drive a car.  That was a few years ago when he was living in his own house, managing his own affairs, driving to where he needed to go.  He was a good driver — didn’t go pell mell like they do now, as if someone were chasing them.  Never had an accident, until that one that wrecked his car and put him in the hospital.  He was old then; eighty-eight, eighty-nine? — and he knew it was his fault.  He’d been getting nervous about his driving, and knew he should have quit sooner.  But no one ever wants to.

So Kim insisted it was time for assisted living.  You’re getting forgetful, and less steady walking, she had said.  He had to admit his daughter had a point.  He felt less comfortable in the real world, trying to keep up with the youngsters — and, even with the middle-age folks.  And he realized she, no longer a youngster, was middle-aged herself.

He didn’t want to move into assisted living.  He resisted.  And he questioned her judgment.  He wondered: does she really know best?

He smiles a sad little smile as he thinks of the time she, at age twelve, wanted to go with the other kids camping over a long three-day weekend in the woods.  No adults; just the kids, all her age.  He had said “No!”  What a fuss she made!  “All the kids are going!” she cried.  But he insisted he knew best.

She had sulked most of the weekend in her room.  But a week later she told him the other kids had had a miserable time.  It rained, was damp and cold all weekend, and they all came home covered with mosquito bites.

Tom-MacLaughlin
Tom MacLaughlin, resident of Willow Brook at Delaware Run

Now, with thoughts of that experience, he drifts off to sleep in his chair.  His dreams flutter like a butterfly, from when she was a toddler to when she became feisty, assertive, knowing it all, at age twelve.

Suddenly a loud crash from outside jars him awake.  He peers through his window and sees that snow had begun to fall; then he spots a car collapsed against a large tree, and soon hears sirens approaching.  He watches, transfixed, as the trauma unfolds: the police cruiser, the emergency vehicle, the medical personnel transferring the injured victim to the ambulance, the quick exit of vehicles, sirens diminishing as they speed away.  He is clearly shaken; will never know the outcome for the victim.

He sits quietly for a long time, his thoughts swirling.  Ah, yes.  As years pass, situations shift.  Now it is she who knows best.  And he understands and accepts that.