Situated twenty kilometres outside the city centre is the oasis of serenity that is Greeneden Home. Greeneden Home is a private nursing home for the elderly. The grounds of Greeneden are wonderfully luminated with an assortment of colourful flora. Endearing architecture of Greeneden is both welcoming and evocative. Sunshine splashes through the windows of the home and artwork brightens up the walls inside. There is a games room and a dining hall and each bedroom is equipped with a modern television and a modern radio, and of course, the staff at Greeneden are nothing short of superb.
Frank Wily was admitted into Greeneden Home early in the season of spring. 82 years of life had made his body thin and frail. Frank needed a walking stick to help him in his stride. After a fall in his home had bruised his hip and broken his wrist, his stepdaughter Elsa decided it was time he availed of round the clock care.
Frank had been quite lonely for most of his adult life. He was the youngest of five children and grew up in a cramped tenements housing project in the city centre. All of his siblings scarpered off to America after World War II had ended and both of his parents died when he was in his teens. From shining shoes to selling newspapers, Frank developed an admirable work ethic from an early age. At fifteen years of age, shortly before his father passed away, Frank managed to procure an apprenticeship as a car mechanic. During his apprenticeship, he rented bedsits across the city, and, shortly after finding work as a fully qualified mechanic he moved into a small cottage close to the busy garage that he was working in.
Frank had always been somewhat shy and reserved. Bullying and harrasement during the formative years had battered his confidence and moulded him into a cynical man. He always got on okay with those that he worked with, but asides from the occasional pint at a bar and the odd flutter at the bookies, he seldom ever ventured beyond his comfort zone. As he avoided going to dances and parties and due to the gender orientated nature of his work, Frank remained single and celibate until well into his 30’s. Up until he had his first and only relationship, Frank found companionship in living with dogs. The first dog he owned was an aggressive little Jack Russell. Tragically, Choco the Jack Russell was hit by a lorry and killed on the spot on Easter Sunday 1955. Harry the Collie replaced Choco the Jack Russell and he went on to enjoy sixteen years of good living. It was on a pleasant, dry day in September 1968 while walking the dog through the park that Frank met for the first time Ms Valerie Williams.
Valerie was pushing a pram through the park when she stopped dead in her tracks to acknowledge the charming splendour of a brown and white Collie that had come to cross paths with her. She got down on her hunkers to pet the dog and examined his strikingly handsome features. She looked up at the owner and said “Wow, he is just adorable,” and with those few words the ice had been broken. Frank was entranced by the lady that stood before him. What he saw was a lady of elegance in a sky blue frock and matching blue bonnet. With her short brown hair and ethereal composure, Frank was nearly sure she was an angel from above. “He’s my best friend! But he’s getting on now. Sleeps a lot. Thirteen years I’ve had him. My name is Frank by the way, and this here is Harry.” “Frank, so nice to meet you. I’m Valerie, and this little one here is Elsa,” she said as she gestured toward the infant in the pram. Frank was besotted by the baby in the pram. Deep down he always had a yearning to have a child of his own but as time had worn on he had given up hope of ever getting married and having children. He had kept himself to himself for most of his life, and, although he was so deeply attracted to women of all sorts, he had forced himself away from them for fear of ever exposing a glint of sensitivity beneath the concrete aura that shrouded his being. A brief chat with Valerie revealed her to be 27 years old and living with her brother and her daughter. Her husband had absconded after she fell pregnant leaving her to rear Elsa all by herself. Frank and Valerie walked to the exit of the park, they had known each other for only five minutes and Frank could already feel himself weakening in her presence. He decided to rebel against his fears and asked her if she’d go out for a walk with him sometime. Of course she said “Yes!”
Frank and Valerie had a passionate relationship. She refused to have another child or marry again but Frank adored baby Elsa so much that he reared her like she was his own. Frank had set up his own little garage in a nice little suburb outside the city and business was going well. Eventually he bought a house next to his own garage and, Elsa, Valerie and himself settled in very comfortably (Harry got cancer in old age and had to be put to sleep by the vet). Frank was so deeply in love with Valerie. He opened up the door to his inscape and allowed her to see it all. Physical intimacy ran wild in the early stages of their relationship. Regular trysts were not confined to the restrictions of the bed sheets, the two just couldn’t keep their paws off each other. Elsa went to school at a nearby convent. She became very close to Frank. The three of them were as happy as happy could be.
Overtime Valerie became hostile and secretive. Frank never knew why. She came clean one day and after fourteen years together the couple broke it off. Valerie had been having an affair with a wealthy, younger man who owned a restaraunt. She walked out on Frank and left him with Elsa, who by then was fifteen years of age. From then on Elsa would go on to be the only ‘friend’ and companion that Frank would have for most of the rest of his life.
He became despondent and depressed after Valerie left him and he never really got over it. Elsa, who kept contact with her mother, eventually moved out into an apartment. She married a man when she was 25 and divorced him after twenty years. She never had any children. After Frank retired and sold his garage he took to the bottle and became a recluse. Having his heart broken had led him to develop anxiety issues. He drank himself silly for years on end and on hearing of his ex-lover’s premature passing away, he attempted to commit suicide by swallowing a whole packet of sleeping tablets. After that incident, Elsa intervened. She helped her stepfather sober up and he never touched a drop again. He could never forget the romance he shared with Valerie, but in ripe old age he learned more to cherish the good times and let go of the heartache.
Upon admittance to Greeneden home, Frank spent a lot of time alone. He’d chit-chat with his peers at the dinner table but otherwise didn’t socialise very much. Six weeks after arriving at Greeneden, Frank was diagnosed with a serious respiratory condition. He was losing weight and becoming weak and nearing the end of his days. On a fine evening on the 1st night of April, he decided to linger in one of the games rooms. He sat down to a game of bridge with two gentlemen and a lady. They played two games in a row and had great fun together. Frank was intrigued by the lady. She was sharp and witty and had been a widow for more than twenty years. They chatted for hours after the two gents departed. Her name was Camilla Byrne, and, just like Frank she had lived a quiet life and kept close-knit relationships. Her husband had been her only lover in life and ever since he passed away she had felt a gaping sense of emptiness that never went away. Frank shared his life stories with her too. When it was time for them to retreat to their rooms, Frank and Camilla nearly had to be pulled apart, the two of them would have talked the whole night away.
Every day following that evening, Frank and Camilla would meet and chat, they played cards together and when the weather permitted they sat outside in the gardens. Something that they both had in common was that they shared an undisclosed dying wish to feel love again before their final moments arrived. Their wish was fulfilled one night when, on the way in from the garden, Frank took Camilla by the hand and walked her back to her room. They took a deep look into each other’s eyes and felt a storm of invigorating magic tingle throughout their souls. Love struck them! They kissed each other good night and hugged each other tightly before retiring to their rooms. They drifted off to sleep, intoxicated by the inexplicable feeling that coursed through their spirits, each one dreaming madly of the other.
The next day Camilla could see no sign of Frank in the games room. She wondered if he had been busy with a visitor or if he had gone for a check-up. By 3′ o clock, a feeling in her gut told her that something wasn’t right. At 3:15 pm a member of staff approached her and gave her the news; her dear friend had slipped into a coma overnight and it was one that he would not be waking up from. Her heart sank. Nurses took her to Frank’s room where he lay in his bed, breathing heavily his final few breaths of life. Elsa stood by his bedside holding his hand. Camilla walked over to him, leaned over, and as a tear dropped from her eye she lay a kiss across his lips. A final shockwave shot down his spine. The final moment was blissful and sweet as Frank Wily expired with a blessing on his lips.