Harold Warren took the small frail hand of his precious Maura, tucked tightly it in the crook of his arm and led her through the assembly of friends and family members that had gathered for the grand opening of Warren’s Lakeside Bed and Breakfast. Five years after his nephew Jack’s death his widow Sylvia had finally brought herself to complete the renovations on the Warren family estate that had been Harold’s childhood home.
Harold held Maura close taking special care to protect her today thinking she might be a bit bewildered by the crowd of people. Her mind was slipping. On good days a stranger could sit and talk with her and never suspect that anything was wrong, but on bad days she could be agitated and confused; sometimes even lost somewhere in an unapproachable world. Harold cherished her as much as he had sixty years ago when she’d become his sweet young bride. Everything in him wanted to shelter and protect her from what was to come. He didn’t understand why his son and daughter-in-law wouldn’t just leave him alone and let him take care of her.
After their visit last summer his son Brian and daughter in law Melissa had decided that Maura’s dementia was getting to be too much for their father to handle. They lived too far away and had demanding careers that prevented them from being any help to him. They had discussed it and really felt they all needed to consider putting Maura in a home. He had argued with them on the phone. How could they consider such a thing? He’d bargained with them, promising get some help with the cooking and cleaning and other jobs Maura was forgetting to do. He knew with just a little help, he could look after her.
His son wouldn’t hear it. He and Melissa worried about them. The decision had been made. Brian and Melissa had flown in earlier in the week to attend Sylvia’s grand opening and to pack and move their parents. Tomorrow morning his sweet Maura would be moved into a local Alzheimer’s facility; he to a senior apartment nearby; never again to live under the same roof. He wasn’t speaking to them. They just didn’t realize what this was doing to him.
Harold guided his wife through the front doors of the Warren lodge mesmerized by the beautiful yet cozy atmosphere their nephew’s widow had created from the shell of his family’s home. Again and again he directed Maura’s attention to things that he recognized; a black and white photograph of himself on the beach with his brothers and sisters, his mother’s treadle sewing machine, a wooden wagon from his childhood filled with dried flowers. Each cherished treasure masterfully placed.
They toured the fully updated commercial kitchen, supremely decorated gathering and breakfast rooms and the luxurious guest bedrooms. Somewhere in the tour they had been joined by their children and grandchildren who all gathered behind them as Sylvia turned the knob on the last unopened door.
For a moment Harold and Maura were taken aback for there stood the hand polished walnut four poster bed they had purchased from Amish craftsmen on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, the curio that held Maura’s prided ceramic bird collection, their faithful Magnavox television and Harold’s worn yet favorite recliner.
“What is this?” Harold asked turning to look at his niece and his children, “our...our things...”
“Uncle Harold, Aunt Maura,” Sylvia cleared her throat and continued, “Brian and Melissa and I had a long talk this week and we’ve decided...I mean we’re wondering...if you’d agree to spend your twilight years here at Lakeside Retreat with me.”
Harold looked astounded. How could she be so wonderful and gracious to them?
“Uncle Harold, you were a father to Jack after your brother passed on. I know this is what Jack would have wanted, and it’s what I want too.” She continued as she watched his aged gray eyes brim with tears, “Your meals will be served here and my staff will do your cleaning. Your job will be to take care of your little lady and enjoy the home that your family so graciously bestowed on Jack and me.”
Harold took the hand of his bride and walked into the room, then turned as a broad grin spread across his face, “so, when do we move in?”
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