Short Stories: A visit to a nursing home

spiritedStarred Page By spirited, 30th Aug 2016 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
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My father was in a nursing home for a few years before he died there. Here is a write-up about one such visit that I made to visit him there. I spent more time that day chatting with another old resident of that home.

Perhaps it was meant to be, because the next time when I visited, and when I took along my pen and writing pad (see story), she had died. Another stroke had taken her out, they told me.

This then is a story about a wonderful old lady whom I once met in a nursing home.

I meet an old lady. How I came to meet her

I had been visiting my father, at his nursing home. He was also there in another wing, and something had made me stop at this old lady’s room on the way through to my Dad’s room.

She was sitting by her bed, knitting a scarf, and the sun was streaming in from the window of which the curtains were drawn wide.

She told me that her name was Mrs Clarabelle Holmes. She had been born in Australia on April 2, 1925, making her the ripe old age of 91, at the time of my visit with her.

She was born and raised in some old country town in Victoria, the same state of Australia, in which I live too.

Her mother had been Australian, but her father was Irish, she told me. Her father had come to Australia when he was in his early 20’s looking for work here, and he had met a nice Aussie girl here then as well.

Clarabelle had three older sisters, and two younger brothers. Only one brother was still living in his own house up in Mildura, a long way from where she was now. All of her other siblings had passed away.

Clarabelle left school after completing year 8, and she had worked as a telephonist, placing trunk calls for customers, for several years before she was married.

Many years later, after her kids had left home, she again entered the work force, this time working for a large department store, in their shoe department. She stayed there for ten years, as she felt well suited to this role.

Eventually though, she had been promoted upwards onto the confectionery counter, where she worked for another fifteen years, before retiring at age, seventy.

She told me that she herself had had three children, who were all married. They had been all girls. The oldest must be around sixty years old herself now, the old dear had mused thoughtfully, almost to herself, as I listened on trying hard to catch her every word.

This daughter was a school teacher, teaching mathematics and science, in a country high school.

Clarabelle seemed proud of this girl’s achievements.

Clarabelle's long life

Clarabelle had quietened down, and she seemed lost in her memories.

I mentioned to her then whether she had any grandchildren.

Clarabelle’s hazel coloured eyes immediately lit up, and she started talking excitedly with much animation, describing them all to me now.

There were six of them, at last count. "No," she soon corrected herself now, "There are now seven." After six grandsons, at last a granddaughter had been born a year or two ago now to her youngest girl.

"I get a bit muddled from living in this place sometimes," she went on. "I am not as sharp as I used to be."

"I really enjoy it when any of the older ones drop in without prompting from their parents to do so," she had added, knowingly to me now.

She really loved being visited by any of her family. It was always the highlight of what otherwise would be a pretty dull and repetitive, ‘nother day.

Of course she understands how busy they must be with their own lives, in this fast-paced computer age which they live in now.

Funny enough though, she has one daughter living only ten minutes drive from this nursing home, and she is the one who visits her the least.

When she does come though, at least she always never comes visiting empty-handed. She will bring her mother some books or magazines for her to read. Clarabelle still loves to read the various women’s magazines, and the short little Mills & Boon booklets, which are mostly romantic tales.

The morning tea trolley now came around, and Clarabelle was served a hot chocolate, and the nursing assistant also poured out one for me. The moist freshly baked piece of sponge cake went down well too.

Clarabelle paused as she sipped the hot drink then.

"I used to be a keen tennis player," you know she told me then, waving her left hand through the air, imitating a backhand stroke, and executed very well for such an old lady.

She loved to watch the tennis on the tube she told me. While watching, she would also busy herself knitting a woolly jumper, or some warm socks, for one of her grandchildren.

She is reasonably healthy, she tells me. “The doctor, who comes in once a week, wants me to give up these though,” she says, pointing to a pack of cigarettes on her bedside table.

I still enjoy one a day,” she winks, as she told me. “I sit outside in the sun, on a sunny day, and take my time smoking it, savouring the experience, for one more time.

"During my long life I have been a volunteer and social worker, doing my fair share of community work. I like to take care of other people," she had went on.

"I am a reasonable fair-minded type of a person, who always tries to honour and respect others, and I always fulfil any promises that I make to anybody."

She put it to me like this, “If I’m asked by somebody to do something, I’ll always do it, if I can.”

I could see that she kept her interest in what was going on in our modern day society too.

"I am unhappy with the current style of family life," she fervently told me.

"I pine for the old days when families all used to all pull together and help each other."

Especially was this so in her own Father’s business, which was boot-making, hence her own interest in that trade.

"Children were a lot more respectful, and obedient back then," she thoughtfully ventured to me, stroking her wrinkled chin, as she went on.

She pointed out the problems with young children, and teenagers living on the streets.

"It’s one of the biggest problems of today," she said. "This problem hardly existed in my day," she then pointed out, rather wistfully.

She thought that the reasons for this were two-fold. These were due to the availability of drugs, and to the fact that most parents were now rather irresponsible, and were not prepared to discipline their children properly.

She has been living in this high-care nursing home for only six months, as a result of her having had a mild stroke. She still needs some assistance even now to do everyday things, she told me.

Before that, she had been enjoying her time more, in the general residential section of the home. She had been there for five years, she had confided to me.

Clarabelle's thoughts

"I have no interests in Politics. One Government is as good or as bad as the next she told me. They are all only in it for themselves, these modern day pollies."

"I do not like racism, and I am all for this idea of allowing gay marriage." "Why not," she winked at me now, "One of my own grandsons is gay, you know."

"All people are equal no matter what their colour, or religion, or sexual persuasion. Everyone deserves a good, and an equal chance in life."

It was almost lunchtime in the home now, but the old lady was not finished yet her reminiscing.

During the war, she had worked in the Air force dining room for a period of six years, both serving and cooking for the soldiers. She had expected to, almost hoped to, travel overseas, but she never got a chance to do so, at that time.

It was only much later that she had been able to leave Australia’s shores, and this happened only the once, during her long life.

She had travelled outside of Australia once before her husband Harold had died. They had gone back to Ireland that trip, and she was really glad that both of them had been able to make that trip back together to his country of origin.

Her eyes began to water over now as she told me of them visiting Harold’s brother Patrick. Harold had not been home for 62 years. He was 84 when they had gone, and he had died just two years after that. He had been ten years older than her when they had married.

I then asked her if she liked pets, and she smiled at me her broadest of smiles.

She had had two dogs and two cats. The last cat was named Whiskers, and she still misses not being able to bring him to the home. He was given to one of her daughter's to care for, and he is still alive even now.

She sometimes brings him in to visit her, when he is up to it, as most of the time, he just likes to lie around now, and not do too much, a bit like me too, she sadly reflected. And now it was time for my own eyes to water up a bit.

"It’s your lunch time now," I said, "but before I go is there anything else in your long life that stands out for you."

My farewell with Clarabelle. The first and the last time that I saw her alive

She told me then that she loved to sing. Singing provides her with an escape outlet into another world. She sings when she is upset, and it seems to stop her "upsetness" then.

She was in fact a very good singer. She had been a valued member of a choir, when she was active in the country women’s association.

She had also sang solo on many occasions at both weddings and funerals, and she was also in her Church choir, for many years too.

Maybe all of this singing and exercising her lungs was responsible for her long life.

Also it might have prevented some of the damage of the cigarettes, she had said.

"We didn’t know how bad they were for you when I first started smoking with some other kids, when I was only fifteen years of age."

"They have a church service once a week here in the home, and I often hum and sing a long a bit if, I feel like it."

"I realise now that I do have to slow down a bit since my stroke, but I am hoping to recover more movement in my limbs with time."

"I am reasonably happy here, but of course I would still rather prefer to be living in my own home."

"I am ninety one now. I will be ninety two next month. I would like them here to involve me in more activities. My mind is still very sharp and sound. The staff here tend to leave me too much alone thinking I am helpless, and that I am not up to participating much."

"That’s why I am unhappy that I had that stroke. I do need care now she admitted. But then again as I have always cared for others, I suppose now it is my turn at last to be cared for a bit."

Clarabelle told me to come and see her again the next time I visited my Dad. (Sadly though, that never happened. She died soon after this visit of mine with her.)

"I used to love writing letters," she told me, "especially to our relatives in Ireland, but since this stroke I have not been able to do that at all. I have trouble holding and using a pen these days."

"The nurses here are so very busy, or at least they pretend to be," she laughed.

"They have time to go outside and to enjoy a smoke themselves, but they have no time to write any letters for me except for them writing on an occasional Birthday card that I want to send off. Sometimes one of my daughters will write half a page for me, but it seems a hard task even for her to even do this much."

"The world of today has largely lost the skills of writing I reckon," she said.

"Perhaps you can help me to write something, next time you come, and we needn’t spend so much time talking. I need to go out for my daily ciggie, but perhaps I will wait till after lunch now. See you next time, Charley, that was your name wasn’t it. I still have a good memory for names too, you know."

And with that, I hopped up and went looking for my father, after more than an hour visiting with this delightful old lady. Actually I think it was two hours!

"Try to keep your soul young and quivering right up to old age."

This quote from the great French writer, George Sand, (1804 to 1876) certainly describes well the old lady that I have written about here.

Her soul was quivering at me the whole time that she spoke to me!

Picture credits:

All of the photos used in this article, except for the one in this last section, which belongs to me, were taken from the free media site,


Death And Dying, Life And Death, Listening To Others, Nursing Homes, Old Age, Short Stories, Short Story, Visiting People

Meet the author

author avatar spirited
I have been interested in the spiritual fields for over thirty five years now. My writing is mostly in this area.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
2nd Sep 2016 (#)

You took me to a world that most have no time for now.

I have my older relatives, including my mum, who long for companionship but even I am guilty not to go the needed distance.

Present lifestyle is such we try to communicate a lot but hardly anything that matters to the soul - siva

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author avatar spirited
2nd Sep 2016 (#)

Thanks siva.

I get a great deal of pleasure talking to old people, and I hope I can give something back to them too.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
2nd Sep 2016 (#)

Yes Spirited, it is a sad fact that those who are willing to spend some time with them are those who want to gain monetarily from them.

However there are the kind souls, the volunteers, willing to hold their hands in the evening of their lives.

I love to talk to them too though they are skeptical at first going by their experiences with most others - siva

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author avatar spirited
2nd Sep 2016 (#)

My mum is 85 now, she doesn't think that she too is already old. She still drives her car, and she visits these old people regularly, both in nursing homes, and in their houses.

There is an old couple still living in their house, the man is 95, his wife is 93. They live just around the corner from my mum, who lives on her own now.

Mum takes the wife shopping every Thursday, and when they get home again, the old man is always outside waiting, ready to help carry the shopping inside.

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author avatar Lady Aiyanna
2nd Sep 2016 (#)

You knew her intimately. Well let her soul, rest in peace. Family abandoning their loved ones for the money and other related stuff well lands parents and grandparents in an old asylum/home for a lifetime. They lose their will to live as its a clinical life. Pity, they speak as you query but lead a lonely life as no one knows what an aged home is like and you, to be honest with you should have been taking care of your father. I never abandon my family however old they are for less responsibility and care. I mean that. Any way, you cannot ask a horse to be a donkey or the other way round if it your upbringing and way of life.

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author avatar spirited
3rd Sep 2016 (#)

thanks, we looked after him for as long as we could, but he was very sick at the end, he needed constant care.

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author avatar Mariah
3rd Sep 2016 (#)

What a very interesting lady, she has enjoyed talking to you as much as you enjoyed listening her and I have really enjoyed reading about it.
Thank you for sharing this with us spirited.

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author avatar spirited
3rd Sep 2016 (#)

thanks Mariah, I am glad you enjoyed my article.

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
4th Sep 2016 (#)

This is a lovely story spirited ...
Thank you for recounting the memories for us here
Many blessings to you
Stella ><

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author avatar spirited
4th Sep 2016 (#)

Thanks Stella.

There's a lot of these old people out there unfortunately, with not many people having the time to listen to them.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
31st Jan 2018 (#)

so important to share with the elderly..i used to go to an old age home and talk to the elderly and just love them..they felt my loving and smiled inside of themselves...I also shared my class on Keys to Awareness to Senior Centers in Miami many years..i still have letters from them telling me of their experiences because of the information i shared with them...i am so blessed....

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author avatar spirited
31st Jan 2018 (#)

thank-you carolina,

We can all obtain many blessings, both open, and inner blessings, with meetings with these older folk.

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