To Be Frank – Chapter 5.3


Roberta woke up sweating. How long had she been asleep? She looked around her office. Luckily her blinds were shut; the staff would think she was hard at work.Pulling out her mirror to check her make-up, she noticed the left side of her mouth was drooping.

Pulling out her mirror to check her makeup, she noticed the left side of her mouth was drooping.

It’s probably nothing.

She had been busy. She set herself a ruthless schedule. A call from the leadership team earlier in the week confirmed that they were impressed with progress at The Grand. News of staff discontent hadn’t reached them, yet.

It was seven at night. She hadn’t been home before eight the whole week. Am I going about this the right way? she thought. Roberta’s aim since those early days had been to build a base so she would never be in the financial situation of her childhood. Balance, she recognised, would not work.

But once she had built up a buffer, once she felt safe, then she could ease off. Her family would become the most important thing in her life. Health would slide up the scale too.

Arriving at her car she pulled the passenger door open with her left hand to dump the documents she’d work on at home. But it didn’t budge. Placing the files and folders down she opened the door with her right.

The drive home was a challenge. Fatigue grew stronger with each minute and she breathed a sigh of relief when she parked in the driveway.

Unlocking the door, she was greeted by Sophie. ‘Hi, Mum,’ Sophie said, wrapping her arms around her mum’s waist.

‘Hi, Soph,’ Roberta replied. She kissed her daughter then continued down the hallway.

‘Your face looks funny, Mum,’ said Sophie, who had yet to let go of her mother’s waist.

‘That’s not very nice, Soph,’ Roberta said, making her way to Tom’s office. ‘Hi love, do you mind grabbing the files in the passenger seat?’

Tom sat behind two monitors, his eyes shifting from one to the other. He looked up immediately.

‘Not at all, dear,’ he said, standing up. He gave Roberta a peck on the cheek, then stepped back and looked at his wife with a raised eyebrow. ‘Your face looks funny.’

Roberta rolled her eyes and moved to her bedroom.

Her phone beeped. It was a reminder: she was supposed to meet up with the girls tonight at the yacht club. They were executives or wives of executives; ladies of prestige and influence. It was a group she yearned to be associated with. She wasn’t quite there yet.


She rushed off to the bathroom to shower, then got changed into a new red dress with black heels. The dress was a little too tight. Though she hadn’t weighed herself in months, her weight gain was undeniable. Her wardrobe was full of new purchases to compensate.

Looking at herself in the mirror, she arranged her hair over the left side of her face. Sophie’s head bobbed up in the reflection.

‘Where are we going, Mum?’ she asked, head angled to one side.

‘Mum’s got to meet up with some important people. You make sure you take care of Dad,’ she said.‘But, Mum, you promised to play with me.’

‘But, Mum, you promised to play with me.’

She squatted down next to her daughter. ‘Sorry, dear. Tomorrow, I promise OK? Roberta replied. The girl looked unconvinced.

Tom was making his way back into the house with the stack of files when Roberta met him at the front door.‘I forgot about a meeting, Tom. I’m so sorry. Tomorrow, we can talk,’ she said.

‘I forgot about a meeting, Tom. I’m so sorry. Tomorrow, we can talk,’ she said.

‘I understand,’ he said and kissed her on the forehead.

Keep pushing just a little bit longer, she told herself as she pulled out of the driveway.


To Be Frank – Chapter 5.2


‘Please help,’ Archie heard as he walked down the hallway. There was a concern in her voice.

Looking into a room, Archie saw Mrs Oxford lying uncomfortably on her recliner. Her feet were dangling off the footrest and her shoulders lay where her bottom should have been. She was mired there, like a kid trying to get out of a ball pit for the first time.

‘Please help,’ she said again, her eyes on Archie.

‘You don’t look very comfortable, Mrs Oxford,’ he said, entering the room and placing down his equipment.

‘I want to go outside,’ she said, squirming.

Archie knew Mrs Oxford had dementia, and could easily get herself lost. Her notes clearly stated she couldn’t go outside without supervision.

He moved to the recliner and picked up the control, ‘Mrs Oxford, I’m going to lower you down and get you comfortable again, OK?’

She stopped wiggling and nodded.

Mrs Oxford was in a better position after a few minutes. There was a resigned look on her face.

‘Shall we put on some Mozart, Mrs Oxford?’ he said, moving towards the CD player. He hoped that this might take her mind off her plight.

Mrs Oxford started to nod. The word ‘Mozart’ had triggered something in her decaying mind. Memories of the past – better times.

‘Yes … Let’s listen to music,’ she said, as her brow unfurrowed.

He looked for the ‘play’ button. It’s like they deliberately make it hard to find, he thought as he picked up the device and searched for the elusive triangle symbol.

The music began to play. Softly, at first, but Archie turned up the volume.

‘A little more, dear,’ said Mrs Oxford. She had looked disoriented moments before. Now, her eyes were clear and focused. She closed her eyes and nodded her head to the rhythm of the music. Then, her hands joined in, conducting the orchestral piece.

It was like someone was sending him messages. A job at a nursing home. Meeting Frank. Seeing the plight of age-related diseases. ‘Wake up!’ the world was saying. ‘Don’t you know life is short?’ it begged.

Archie left the room. If only there was a courage pill, he thought.

To Be Frank – Chapter 5.1


Frank no longer thought about suicide. He stopped stockpiling his pills and, for the first time, he was enjoying his days in aged care.

It was thanks to Archie. The young man’s perseverance had been annoying than refreshing. Though Frank could no longer do what he once did, he still had his memories. For now.

He had never been one for material things. Instead, he poured his efforts into building something bigger than him. Great experiences followed. He didn’t go out chasing adventure. It made sense for him to pursue things based on feel. The escapades were merely a by-product.

But this way of thinking and approaching life wasn’t natural to everyone. Frank knew that Archie had all of the building blocks to do something with his life; to make a change. Though the young man failed to act. Instead, he worked in an old folks home. He was doing good work but he wasn’t doing his best.

Archie walked in, as if on cue.

‘Which tale of the past will it be today, Frank?’ Archie asked as he began the sequence of stretches.

‘You must be sick of my ramblings by now. Besides, I know nothing about you,’ Frank said.

‘That’s because there’s nothing to tell,’ Archie said with an empty smile.

‘What happened, Archie? Something has taken your spirit. Did you fail at something? What is it?’

Archie didn’t speak for some time. Frank could see he was weighing up how best to explain himself.

‘In a nutshell, life hasn’t turned out as I expected. I thought by now I’d have found my purpose. I thought I’d be working on my life’s work. Each day would build on the last.

‘But instead, life is monotonous. Eat, work, sleep, repeat.’

He was speaking to himself more than he was Frank.

‘I hoped my life would turn out like yours and others like you who live a life of meaning. It’s like you have it all figured out.’

Frank couldn’t help himself as he let out a chuckle.

‘Do you think I had it all planned out? That I knew what I was doing each step of the way? Because if that’s the impression I’m giving, I need to work on my storytelling skills!

‘I’m a terrible planner. Most of the time I was following hunches. I stumbled from one spot to the next. Conservation, for example. I literally knew nothing about it until I found myself in the middle of something so obviously destructive in the form of logging. It was a coincidence. Pure timing.

‘And I barely looked more than two weeks ahead. Five-year plan? More like a five-day plan!

‘Things change, Archie. People change. Yeah, your interests might be the same. Like birds for me. But you can’t limit yourself even if an opportunity mightn’t seem like the perfect one.

‘So, follow your gut?’ Archie said. He couldn’t hide the sceptical look on his face.

‘In a nutshell,’ Frank said.

To Be Frank – Chapter 4.3


The facility was running smoothly – from a financial perspective anyway. However, her workers’ discontent that had begun as a rumbling was building to a roar.

It was as Archie had predicted. More residents meant a bigger workload for each of her staff. They were stressed and strung out. But thoughts of that phone conversation with the young man made her bristle. She wouldn’t take orders from a subordinate. In fact, she wanted to do the opposite and get rid of staff. That would show Archie that she was a leader and he a follower.

Her mind wandered to the past. She had followed every order of the popular group as a little girl. It got her nowhere, just as it had got her father.

Go into the boys’ toilets, they had dared. Then you can be in our group. But it was a false promise. Though that didn’t stop her from being their whipping girl. Like the clichéd movies, she even did their homework.

It took her until after high school to evolve and grow a backbone. She found there was power in saying ‘no’ and using aggression. Her approach polarised people. Soon she found herself as the leader of her own click.

Her group was made up of submissive types. Roberta was rarely questioned and had ultimate say on issues. On the odd occasion when someone spoke up, a sharp glare was all it took to wrestle back control.

She got used to this position as she moved through university and into working life. She met her husband, a docile man, at an end of term party. The two never looked back.

Roberta knew she was in an awkward spot. If she yielded to Archie’s demands and hired more staff, she’d be no better than her former herself. No better than her obedient father. But if she didn’t make a change, The Grand would suffer. The question was: how long would it take for the cracks to appear?

She knew one thing. Archie had to be taught a lesson. She was the boss.

To Be Frank – Chapter 4.2


Archie had been left frustrated since his phone conversation with Roberta. He wasn’t in the position to push the issue. But he felt a sense of responsibility; for his colleagues and those under his duty of care. The needs of more and more residents left him running short on time.

 On his way to a patient’s room, he paused for a moment and looked in at three residents in the lounge area. They were in the high care category and didn’t – or couldn’t – interact with the others. Two were in reclining chairs, while the other was in a wheelchair. Their mouths gaped open, and their eyes were open too but saw nothing. They sat in silence, waiting.

Waiting for death.

There’s a chance I could end up like that, Archie thought as he set off down the hallway. Will I be content and free of regret when my time comes?

Archie knew he was destined for something. But he worried he was going to miss his chance. And instead of leading a life of meaning he’d have to settle for a life of mediocrity.

He was buoyed by Frank’s tales. Frank was deteriorating now, but he had truly lived.

He had taken chances; many times he had failed. Though failure had never spelt the end. Instead, it opened doors that he walked through without a second thought. ‘Better to wear out than rust out,’ Frank had once said.

Where do I find that kind of courage?

Archie was too logical and analytical. Too concerned with what others might think. Too concerned his dreams were unrealistic. And too scared of failure.

If Frank’s current state had taught him anything, it was that there was only one chance at life. If Archie fast-forwarded fifty years, would he be happy that he had earned decent money and owned a house? Would he be content with the occasional weeklong holiday in the tourist-infested Bali?

No, he wouldn’t. So what would he do about it?