Five months after the outing to the ‘consenting adults’ club Dennis was lonelier than he had ever been in his life. He really missed the constant company of his wife and the only other person in the complex who used to be around in the daytime had moved to another city, so those chats had gone from his life. Other than the occasional meal with his oldest friend, whose wife he really disliked, and the Sunday lunch at his daughter’s house, he seldom saw anyone other than the occasional workman for the complex. And once there was a trustees meeting for the body corporate, at which he seemed to drink too much wine and become contentious.
Some days he didn’t bother to change out of his pyjamas. He ate meals out of a can where possible. Everything felt like too much effort.
Then he got flu. Not just an ordinary one, but where he felt as though every bone in his body was bruised, every muscle has been torn, and his head used for soccer practice. His doctor did not do house calls, so he lay in bed, miserable, occasionally wondering if he died, just how long it would take before someone noticed and came to find his body.
His daughter phoned, and when he said he could not come on Sunday as he was too ill, she demanded details and told him she was on her way over.
A few hours later he was in a hospital bed, attached to a heart monitor. There ‘for observation’ as the doctor thought there may be a strain on his heart from the really bad flu. When the doctor told him that the elderly were particularly at risk from this strain, he stopped listening. How could the doctor call him elderly?
The next morning as he showed some signs of improvement he was let out of bed and allowed to go to the bathroom. When he looked in the mirror the man who stared back at him seemed like a stranger. Grey stubble, thin hair all standing up, bags and hollows under the eyes, a neck like a turkey’s all stringy.
He reeled back to his bed in shock.
When his daughter arrived he confessed he’d been wondering if he died just how long it would take for someone to notice and find him. Then he cried. For the first time since his wife died.
His daughter just sat with him, holding his hand and saying nothing until he finished. Then she said simply “I don’t know how you managed to live alone there without her. You two were each other’s lives and support. That is why we wanted you to move so there are other people around.”
And so they started planning what he was to do next with his life.