“Trust me, Donald. Your son will soon run out of patience and ask you to leave. So it is better to worry in advance and find a suitable option on your own, than to wait until your relationship finally deteriorates,” Donald heard his neighbor Mary say. The woman did not stop repeating these words while they were drinking tea on the porch of his son’s house.
Two months ago, while Donald Harper was at the store, there was a fire at his house. When the elderly man saw what had happened to his house, he had a heart attack. He was admitted to the hospital. His son Peter and his wife insisted on taking Donald to their home as soon as he was discharged from the hospital. But they were still very young, both of them in their 30s, raising three children, and now they had an older man in their house to look after.
Donald was worried for a while, he didn’t want to become a burden to the children, but they assured him that there was no problem, that the grandchildren were happy to spend time with their grandfather. However, Peter’s neighbor, Mary, who was about the same age as Donald, had a different opinion.
“Do you suppose that Peter and his wife just can’t tell me directly that I should move away from them?”, Donald asked and slowly took a sip from his cup.
Mary took a sip, too, and vigorously nodded back at him. “Undoubtedly. It was the same for me, and I had only been with my daughter for three weeks. If something went wrong with her, she blamed it on me. According to her, I made too much noise and wasted a lot of electricity. My house was just being fumigated, but I longed to go home,” Mary told me. “So we almost stopped talking to her.”
Donald sighed and nodded understandingly. Maybe Mary was right. Apparently Peter was much more well-mannered, because in two months Donald hadn’t heard anything bad from him about himself. Donald also noticed that each day Peter and his wife Sandra came home later and later. He was happy to look after his grandchildren, but he worried that he was the reason they were slow to come home. Then he made the decision to move out.
In the evening, when his son came home, Donald pulled him aside and offered to move him into a nursing home, but Peter said they would talk about it later. “Dad, it’s not a good time right now. Let’s talk later.”
As the months passed. Donald was overcome with anxiety. Peter and Sandra looked very tired when they came home in the evenings, but they were always friendly to him. He did not bring up the subject of the nursing home again from that day, but he decided to talk again. Donald had money saved up and could afford a decent facility, so he ruled out all the horrible examples.
He even looked on the Internet to see what suitable places were nearby. There was one near Peter’s house that was a short drive away. Donald printed out the information about the facility beforehand and decided to show it to his son.
“Okay, Dad. Tomorrow we’ll go there and see,” Peter replied, and Donald breathed a sigh of relief. Mary had recently brought up the fact that Donald was staying too long at his son’s house again. He didn’t want to spoil relations with his family.
The next morning they got into the car and drove toward the boarding house Donald had chosen. But along the way, Peter turned the other way several times and Donald inexplicably asked: “Do I think you’re going the wrong way? I think we’re driving in a circle.”
“It’s okay, Dad. I just need to stop at 7Eleven,” my son replied, not taking his eyes off the road.
Donald nodded in agreement and relaxed. He once again perused the information about the boarding house and the benefits that were available there.
Engrossed in his reading, he didn’t even notice that Peter had stopped. “Grab some chips for me, please,” Donald muttered.
“We’re not in the store, Dad. Look up,” Peter replied. Donald looked in the direction Peter was pointing. For a few seconds he couldn’t figure out where he was. It was his home street, but what was it? His home?
The last thing Donald saw when he was here was a pile of ashes. They had purchased this one with his wife, and Peter had been born and raised here. The shock Donald felt after seeing the aftermath of the short circuit in the kitchen deeply shook his aged heart.
But what he saw before him now was very different from that picture. In the place of the burnt-out dwelling stood a house again, a new, renovated house. Donald looked questioningly at Peter. “No, he didn’t,” he said quietly.
“Of course he did. Me and Sandra worked hard to restore this house,” Peter replied, smiling broadly.
“But it did cost a lot of money, Peter. I want that money back,” Donald said, barely holding back tears.
“What are you talking about? How did it even occur to you that I could let you move into a nursing home? I don’t know who put you up to it. Besides, I grew up in that house. We couldn’t lose it, even though I have my own house, which isn’t too far from here. I love our home, it’s the least I could do for you,” Peter replied heatedly, tears glistening in his eyes.
Donald couldn’t stand it and cried. Peter hugged his heartbroken father tightly. They entered the house together. Sandra and Peter had furnished it in a new way that made it look much more modern.
Donald still couldn’t believe what had happened. He finally understood why Peter and Sandra were always coming home so late. He also realized that he had been foolish to listen to what Mary, the nosy neighbor, was saying. Clearly she had been wrong.