Charles wrapped his crooked, knobby fingers around the top of his cane and lamented over the effort of each joint. Counting the spots on the back of his hand, he wondered where all the time had gone. With an ornery sigh and great effort, he managed to make it from the bed over to the window, dropping into his favorite, overstuffed chair.
“Well, look at you. Already up and at’em, I see.” This particular nurse was much too chipper for his taste. “You’re looking a bit grumpy today. Maybe we’ll go for a walk down in the garden later, huh?”
He grunted in response, hoping to knock a little shine off her cheery disposition. Sometimes a man just wanted to be in a funk. And the way Charles saw it, he’d put in enough years on this earth to do so when he pleased.
“It’s time for your morning pills,” she said with no sign of being even slightly bothered by his attitude.
It only added to the cloud of irritation that bloomed in his chest. It was all made worse when he took note of her uniform: t-shirt and jeans. Her unprofessionalism was infuriating and he just wanted her to leave him be.
He expelled an exaggerated huff then reached for the pills. When he noticed how shaky his hand was, he quickly drew it back. Turning away from nurse what’s-her-name and staring out the window, Charles allowed his embarrassment to morph into anger.
“Just leave them on the table,” he said dismissively. “And get out. I’m a grown man. I know how to take my own damn pills.”
Stillness settled around the room. Charles could hear the lazy ticking of the grandfather clock down the hall. The longer the nurse stood frozen behind him, the more he realized how unfair he had been. But instead of apologizing, he pressed his lips firmly together and continued to stare out at the late-arriving colors sprouting in the garden. It had been a long, tough winter.
The nurse finally woke from her catatonic state and moved closer to Charles, setting a glass of water and pills on the table next to him. When she placed her hand on his shoulder, he didn’t yell. He was surprised by how comforted he was by the gesture. When she gently planted a kiss on the top of his head, he didn’t flinch. He closed his eyes and drank in the familiarity
“I’ll come back by later to see if you want to go for that walk,” she said, her joyful tone a bit chipped.
Even with his back to her, he could still feel that she was there, hovering near the door.
“I love you, dad.” He heard her say.
But by the time he turned around, she was already gone.