Shifting Perspectives

“You always said you hoped I didn’t get to choose your nursing home,”  The old man heard Benita’s voice from what seemed far away to his ears, the sound echoing along dimly lit tunnels.  His eyes could see Benita leaning near to him, so he assumed his hearing aid battery had gone dead again. The wheelchair bumped up a rickety ramp and stopped with dreaded finality in front of a door.

“I always said your fear of me choosing your nursing home was the only acknowledgement I’d get from you that perhaps you treated me most unfairly for many, many years, Pappa.”

The old man wondered if the girl was going to hold on to her resentment until he died. No, he decided, probably until she died. So, life wasn’t perfect. Perhaps he had been a little hard on her from time to time, but kids needed character building or they grew up to be nothings. If he had mollycoddled her, she would not have stretched and grown or learned how to deal with a harsh and unjust world.

He could feel a subtle tickling along the corner of his mouth and knew he was drooling again. He just couldn’t seem to summon the strength to wipe the spit away. He caught a whiff of Benita’s vanilla scented perfume as she leaned over him to push the doorbell. There was a pounding in his chest as her words continued to hammer at him with measured relentlessness.

“For every time you told me I was no good, that I was a failure, that I was fat, and ugly or stupid . . . for all the times I cried in despair at ever being able to please you . . . for all the times you mocked me . . . well, let’s just say that this – new home – is still too good for you.”

The door swung open and the old man gagged involuntarily at the smell wafting from the house. No! he screamed internally, but remained impassive. He would not give his daughter the pleasure of seeing his fear and revulsion.

“Mrs. Charpentier,” he heard Benita saying, “such a pleasure to meet you. My father is so looking forward to being here. He only has one small bag of belongings.”

With a slight grunt, the old man realized that Benita was truly going to abandon him as she let the duffle bag land in his lap. Benita was leaning close to his face, locking her eyes on his as she smiled sweetly and said, “I do hope you’ll enjoy your stay.”

The old man blinked and looked away.