As a teen, I hated visiting Gran in the care home. The place smelled of Bengay and peppermint, and the day room was even worse with fifty different perfumes and colognes competing with the last remaining oxygen.
The rooms were small and claustrophobic, and each had the identical floral wallpaper which also featured in the lobby.
I have to be brutally honest about it. I loved my Gran, but when Saturdays came around I came up with whatever excuse I could to avoid the visit. I even started getting better grades because of all of the homework I actually did.
It’s thirty-five years on and my mom’s sister, Aunt Mildred, has recently moved into a “care facility.” Although the unpleasant memories of my teenage years still lingered, I felt it my familial duty to at least pay one visit.
When I arrived to ‘The Meadows,’ I was greeted by, what I swear must be, the exact same wallpaper. Were they trying to be retro or was it just something in the DNA of these places?
“Hi, I am here to visit Mildred Smith,” I said at reception.
“Please sign in on the screen, and don’t forget to put your vehicle registration number in so you don’t have to pay for parking,” the what seemed to be twelve-year-old receptionist said.
I punched in my details, and the screen lit up with a smiley emoji. I must have blanched at the image, as the receptionist said, “That means you are on Ms Smith’s preferred visitors list.”
“Oh,” was all I could say.
“You will find her in the day room. It’s at the end of the hallway past the double doors,” the receptionist said. “She will be expecting you.”
I made my way down the pastel coloured corridor and through the double doors. I then came into the day room. It was bright. MTV was on the television screen, and above all there was air!
About a dozen “Oldsters” were in the room, and not a zimmer frame or house coat in sight.
“How are you doing, my darling?” my aunt said as she came up and gave me a hug.
“I, I am okay,” I said returning her hug and then proffering her the basket of grapes I had brought, which now seemed really inappropriate.
“Annie, this is the gang. Gang, this is my niece, Annie,” Mildred announced loudly.
“Hello Annie,” the group chorused.
“Hi, ah, um, Gang,” I replied sheepishly.
A ninety-year-old gentlemen wearing a stylish track suit stood and came and kissed my hand, and then gave me a wink.
“Oh, that’s Alfie, he’s such a flirt,” Mildred said as she shot him a sly wink and then mouthed the word “eight.”
He blew Mildred a kiss, and the heavy gold disco chain glistened from his wrist with the gesture.
“Come along, Darling,” Mildred said and she then led me down a different corridor which was totally devoid of the floral print.
Three doors down she stopped and gave two soft taps on a door before opening it. She stuck her head in an said, “Is seven still good for you?”
A male voice responded, “Perfect Milly, I can’t wait.”
We passed two more doors and she repeated the process, though this time inquiring if “six was okay.”
Another male voice replied, “Lovely, Mil. Any later and you’d wear me out.”
She then crossed the hall and opened the door to a spacious room with a thick blue carpet, which accentuated her leopard print bedspread and the the zebra patterned pillows. On the walls were framed photos of scantly clad young men in what seemed to be erotic poses.
“Come in Darling,” she said, and patted her hand on a the seat of a chair in tiger print.
I sat and then asked, “How have you been doing?”
“Lovely, lovely. This place really makes me feel alive, and I am so busy,” she said.
Busy indeed, I thought remembering the journey to the room.
“Aunt Mildred, I know its none of my business, but . . . ”
She held up a hand to cut off the rest of the question, “Yoga, Dear. I give private yoga lessons,” she said with a sweet smile.
Prompt A (setting challenge): Elderly person’s home
Prompt B (sentence starter): “The place smelled of Bengay and peppermint.”
Prompt C (photo): Above