When You’re Old: Flash Fiction

They referred to her as a darling little girl, though she was now thirteen and rolled her eyes at every word that fell from an adult’s mouth. Dreary. That is how she would describe her current living situation, which consisted of her Mother, Father, little brother, and Grandpa Willy. Grandpa Willy was the only interesting person in the house, often sharing his way-back-when stories, never leaving out details about getting drunk and brawling at some far away place. Unfortunately, Grandpa Willy was starting to become forgetful, and he often repeated his stories or mixed them up. His stumbling made the darling girl uncomfortable and impatient. She began to keep her distance.

One day she walked by his room and noticed her Mother was taking the sheets off of Grandpa Willy’s bed. The smell confirmed he had soiled himself. Grandpa Willy was standing in the corner with nothing on below the waste. She didn’t mean to stare, but something in his face made her fearful. He stood perfectly still, arms hanging low, his hands clasped in front of his naked half, though not in a way to hide himself. With sunken shoulders and a drooped head, she felt the need to cover him and comfort him. Though her feet remained firmly in place and words never came to her mouth.

He was the same man who told her how he bravely fought three Irishman in a bar with one hand, the other still grasping a pint, and a cigarette dangled from his mouth. He dropped them, one, two, three! His eyes always twinkled when he spoke of these days. Now, his eyes were gray and hallow. Without moving his head, he peered up at her.

Sucking in her breath she quickly moved out of sight. Her face grew warm and tears silently fell. The house remained dreary and now the walls seemed closer than before.

. . . . . . .

My Note: I was inspired to write this after a rather sad observation I had about 6 years ago. When my first child was born I did everything for him. It was, and still is, an honor to care for him. Yes, it’s hard at times, but holding his little body, dressing him, changing him, feeding him, washing him, it’s all very close to my heart. The thought struck me one day, he will be old and need someone to do these same things for him. Possibly toothless and unable to walk, he will need help with everything. This person won’t be me. I won’t be around to help him anymore. Yes, then I cried ferociously, while my baby stared at me completely puzzled. The circle of life was very real to me that day.

To my kids, I wish I could hold you when you’re old and need someone.

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