To Be Frank – Chapter 9.3

Roberta

Machines beeped around her, but they weren’t the only constant. Roberta’s family were keeping up a bedside vigil, surviving on very little sleep.

For the most part, Roberta slept. She could do little else. She couldn’t even feel the left side of her body anymore, let alone move it. Her right side wasn’t much better.

When she was awake, what she heard didn’t sound good. She had suffered a stroke and the doctors, once again, said she was lucky to be alive.

She would recover, but the term was relative. She would be bedridden for the rest of her life, and her bodily functions would no longer be under her control. She might be able to bend her elbow; that was about the only thing she could look forward to.

Worst of all, she couldn’t communicate. She couldn’t tell her family to go home and stop wasting their time. She couldn’t tell them to let her die. She couldn’t say sorry.

Every time she woke, she was struck by confusion. Once that passed, she would be overwhelmed with regret. The things I would have done differently had I had my time again.

But there would be no do-over. No second chance. All she could do was wait for the end. And so she cried.

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To Be Frank – Chapter 9.2

Archie

He arrived at the funeral service early. It was a fine day, though a little muggy. As he made his way to the burial site, he thought of the impact Frank had had on his life in only a matter of months.

The old man had passed away in his sleep a week ago. Archie was sad but he knew it was for the best.

‘What’s your plan now?’ many had asked him. He decided it was too clichéd to say, ‘To follow my passion’, so he gave a vague answer about exploring other avenues of work.

Though, he did tell those closest to him. It was a rough idea and there was no five-year plan but it was something.

Archie would open a gym. But rather than focus on the elite he’d instead work with people who didn’t have access to coaching or a good quality facility. The disadvantaged kids who had a whole lot of potential but not a lot else.

‘And what if it doesn’t work? What if the money runs out?’ family and friends asked.

Then at least I can say I have tried and can move on.

Was he making the right decision?

Who’s to say what’s right? There is no right way to live life. It’s up to the individual and what they want to get out of their finite time on this funny planet.

As the service began, he thanked the man he was visiting for the last time. He thanked him for nudging him in the right direction and he thanked him for his friendship.

To Be Frank – Chapter 8.3

Roberta

Roberta couldn’t find the same satisfaction or momentum at work after her ‘mini-stroke’. She spent more and more hours in the office, trying to rediscover the spark. Despite the instance of her family and friends, she avoided rest, seeing it as weakness. She pushed away everyone who tried to get close.

Everyone except her ‘friends’, that is. Roberta still had ambitions to be one of them. So she found time for the ladies who valued Prada over people.

Her health also sat at the bottom of her priorities. She paid little attention to what she ate and only did her rehab when Tom and Sophie gave her no other choice. The dexterity of her left hand was still poor, and she was forced to go upstairs leading with her right leg because her left didn’t have enough strength.

On this particular day, she had worked from dawn till dusk. She buried herself in emails and had several meetings with key stakeholders. It was a stressful time; next week there would be an audit. Everything would need to be perfect.

She struggled into her car and breathed a sigh of relief. Another day finished. But not quite. Tonight, she wouldn’t be driving home. She had a catch-up with the girls.

She wasn’t at the point where she was invited to every event. So, when the opportunity arose, she took it – even at short notice. She had attended a lot of the events of late. It was only a matter of time before she was a regular. People were starting to see her as a woman of wealth and power. And that felt good.

No slip-ups, she told herself as she started the car. Butterflies tumbled around her stomach as she went to release the handbrake. Only, it didn’t release. The lever wouldn’t budge.

Stupid thing must be broken.

She reached across the centre console to get to her handbag, where her phone was. She’d call her husband to pick her up. She dragged the bag across to her lap. It felt heavier than it should have been. Eventually, she got it close enough so she could rifle through its contents.

Roberta held the bag open with her right hand. As she searched through it with her left, she found she could barely grasp objects to move them away. Soon, her whole arm felt numb and heavy.

She tried to curse, but no word came out, just a mumbled sound. Then, she was hit by a blinding headache like nothing she had ever experienced.

She slumped over, her blurred vision turning to no vision as everything went black.

To Be Frank – Chapter 8.2

Archie

Frank was a lot worse. He was emaciated and took up only a small part of the bed. The sheets looked untouched as if he hadn’t moved for hours.

This is the end, Archie thought. He moved quietly towards the bed wary that any perturbation might crush the old man.

‘Just the man I’ve been looking for,’ Frank said. His eyes opened for a moment, before closing shut under the weight of the medication.

A smile grew on Archie’s face. ‘I’ve been waiting for you to visit me,’ Archie joked.

Frank chuckled and his chest rattled loudly. ‘Sorry, Archie, the car’s been in the shop,’ he said. His eyes were closed but there was a faint smile on his face. ‘It’s time, boy.’ There was no fear in his voice; he said it like it was an objective fact.

Archie didn’t know what to say. He knew this day would come and he’d been through the same thing with his grandparents. But that didn’t make it any easier. He sat in the chair by the bed and slid it closer.

‘Thanks for spending time with me, Archie. You don’t know the difference you made to an old coot like me,’ he said. His eyes were open now, though Archie could see it took all of Frank’s effort to keep them from closing. ‘You’re a good kid. Just keep things simple – do what brings you joy, work hard at it and help others.’

‘Thanks,’ Archie said, his voice trembling a little.

‘Now,’ Frank said, his eyes closed once more, ‘all this time I’ve been telling you my story. Let’s hear about what’s in store for young Archie. What will they be saying about you in fifty years’ time?’ He waited expectantly, like a child before a bedtime story.

‘Well,’ Archie said, perking up, ‘it all began when I met this old man.’

‘Handsome fellow, I hear,’ Frank said, and the two of them laughed.

To Be Frank – Chapter 8.1

Frank

Frank’s pain levels had dropped. It felt like part of his body had already ‘gone’, while the rest of him anticipated the eventual exit.

The old man had asked the nursing staff to get in contact with Archie so he could see him one last time. Frank didn’t have the ability or stamina to call him himself.

He was only lucid for small windows of each day. Mostly he dreamt – thanks to the intravenous feed of palliative medication. He was reminded of the good times, like his adventures and the birth of his children, and the not-so-good times too, like the passing of his wife all those years ago.

As he began to drift off again, there was a knock at the door. The old man fought away the fog that shrouded his mind.

He cleared his throat. ‘Come in,’ he said.