He is 98 years old. His wife died some 20 years before, and he has lived alone ever since. He kept good health for most of his life.
In fact, his health was better than his wife's. She could not have children, was dreadfully upset when she found out she needed a hysterectomy, at only 33 years of age, dashing any hopes she had that there may be a miracle. No one seemed to know exactly why she could not have children. Or, if they did, no one ever told her. Certainly, cancer was never mentioned.
They were quiet respectful people, who didn't think to question authority figures, such as Doctors. She went quietly, bravely, for her surgery, came home and recovered, and they didn't discuss it further, she and her husband. Just accepted that that was their fate.
She did once ask him if he would like a divorce, so he could find another woman, who might bear his child. He scoffed at her, picked her small body up, and twirled her around in the warm kitchen. He told her that it seemed he had loved her all his life, and he was content to keep on loving her.
He tended his gardens, selling his vegetables in his little shop. She would help when she could, and she took in sewing to help with the money. They had a happy life together, for the most part. He with his vegetables, she with her sewing and her cooking. In the evenings they often sat on the veranda, reading or talking, as they watched the sun set.
Sometime she would catch him talking to his tomatoes, his cheerful, soft, voice coaxing them along. She really laughed when she caught him singing to his pumpkins, his light tenor voice so happy & tuneful. He sometimes sang as he dug his potatoes too, though it was not such free flowing singing then.
Then she got breast cancer. There was more cutting away of her being, more hospital time. She came home even smaller, and was very quiet. Sometimes he saw she was crying, so he crept away, to leave her to her private grief.
A few more years passed. Another cancer, the second breast cut away. Less of her than ever. Somehow she never seemed to regain her strength after that surgery. She just grew smaller, sadder, till she finally gave up the cancer race.
After his wife died, he never had the same enthusiasm for his garden. He sold his little shop, and though he still grew vegetables for himself, he never grew enough to sell, though whenever he had surplus, he would give it away, to neighbours or friends. He would still occasionally hum a little tune to the pumpkin or the cucumber vines.
Cancer had had it's little nibbles at him, but nothing compared to her trials. He had several skin cancers cut off his face. One on his ear, another on his nose, which required a skin graft. All those years out in his gardens, they told him at the Hospital.
"You must wear your hat! You must wear sunscreen! Stay out of the sun!"
Then at 96 he had been told that he had prostate cancer. He went to hospital, had tests, surgery, more tests, more tests, some sort of treatment. He was not sure what exactly it had all meant, but finally he was told he should be alright.
Somehow it seemed slightly ridiculous to think he was still alive and OK after all these years.
He often wondered "For what? or why?" There were more times lately that he felt confused and thought life was very strange.
His hair was snow white and very thick still. He wondered about baldness, and could remember his father had seemed always bald to him, when he was a child.
He now had a little home assistance. He could still manage to get his own meals, but he had help to clean his house. A person would come to take him for Doctor's appointments or his eye tests. He had someone take him to do his shopping, because he occasionally became a little confused, or forgot what he needed to restock.
Now he refused to buy new clothes. What was the point, was they way he looked at it. He still had enough to clothe his body, and keep him warm when winter came. Never mind about fashion. "At my age?" he laughed, when one of his care workers had asked him if he would like to look at some new clothes, or shoes. This was said, as she glanced at his old baggy track pants, and his elderly slippers, which was his customary footwear.
Today, he had got up early to have his shower, and pack his little bag, he was taking to the hospital. He didn't need much and he had got dressed with the careworker to help him, if he needed any assistance.
When they got to the Hospital, the nurses were somewhat puzzled as to why he had his bag? The careworker was a new girl, she had been told he was to be overnight in hospital.
"No no," the nurses said, "He is only in for a checkup today. He won't be staying."
"Will you be alright?" his careworker asked.
"I don't know.. someone usually comes with me." he seemed a little bewildered. He had prepared himself for an overnight stay. He couldn't quite work out what was going on.
The careworker rang to find out further instructions. She felt she could not leave this dear, bewildered old gentleman on his own. She had another client, so could not remain.
She was instructed to leave him there. Public transport was mentioned. He couldn't possibly manage that on his own. She felt terribly torn.
She thought she just might give this job away.
There was increasing heartache. Money was being pinched for services. Expenses were being 'trimmed' and 'cut'.
The nurses looked quite disgusted. The careworker felt terrible. She could see the nurses discussing the situation in their little glass cubicle.
The Old Man sat quietly, clutching his little old bag, looking at his slippers.
6 months ago