The idea of this book first came to me when my father was in a nursing home. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get out of bed, and he did refuse to eat or take meds. After years of working as a tile setter, it had taken its toll and he suffered with arthritis in his knees and back, so much so that he wasn’t able to stand or walk. I noticed during several visits a little old lady walked past his room and always stopped and looked in. She never spoke, just looked at us for a minute and went on her way. Something about her reminded me of my mother. Maybe it was her curly, silver hair, or her slight build. Whatever it was, she stuck in my mind and years later when I decided to write this story, she naturally came to mind. This story actually had several different drafts. The original was a nonfiction assignment for a writing course I took. It was strictly about my father and his incapacity to get out of bed. From there it changed to fiction, and I brought Elsa into the story. While Elsa is based on my mother – especially her love of playing jokes and her sense of humor, my mother predeceased my father by three years. And while Mike is based on my father, my dad didn’t have this sense of humor. While I could picture my mother doing this stuff, even in a nursing home, I honestly couldn’t picture my dad. He had a sense of humor, but not one as wild as my mom.
Where I came up with these ideas, I’m not quite sure. I think Mike and Elsa thought of them. The story just took off on its own and flowed. I love when a story does that.
Geriatric Rebels is the story of Mike and Elsa. Seventy-two year old, Mike, forced to stay in the nursing home for therapy. He refuses to take his medicine, refuses to get out of bed, and won’t cooperate with the nurses. At least not until he meets Elsa. Seventy year old, Elsa is left in the home because her son took his family on a vacation. After an explosive meeting, she teams up with Mike and the nursing home is never the same. Later they discover deception and fraud. Can the two find happiness together?
Available from Books We Love Publishing, Ltd. http://bookswelove.net/dowell.php
Learn more about Roseanne Dowell’s books, check out her website: www.roseannedowell.com or her blog: http://roseannedowellblogspot.com
Peeking around the corner into the dimly lit halls, Mike watched the pretty silver-haired lady slip into a dark room. What was she up to? He looked up and down the hall to make sure no one was around and followed her. Next thing he knew, he ran smack into her.
“Whoa,” she whispered. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
“Maybe I should ask you that question,” Mike answered. “This isn’t your room.” A tiny little thing, she barely came up to his shoulders. She put her hands behind her back, and Mike chuckled. What was she hiding? “I’m night security,” he lied. “What’s behind your back?”
She lowered her head and brought out a water pitcher. “It was only a joke.”
Mike took her arm. “You better come with me.” He led her to the hall after a quick check to make sure it was still empty. “So you’re the one stealing the pitchers.”
She shivered and for a moment he felt sorry for her. What a mean trick, but he couldn’t help himself. He pushed open the exit door.
“Where are we going?” Elsa stiffened and tried to pull away. “Where are you taking me?”
Her timid tone melted Mike. Time to confess. Damn, too late.
“Wait just a dog-gone minute.” She pulled away from him. “How do I know who you are? Where’s your uniform? Show me some identification.” Although she spoke in whispers, the tone of her voice showed Mike she wasn’t buying his act.
Surprised by her sudden change of attitude, he stopped, raised his hands in surrender, and grinned at her.
“Who are you? Where do you think you’re taking me?” She glared at him with the lightest, bluest eyes he’d ever seen. Eyes that right now, he swore pierced into his.
“You’re a burglar, aren’t you?” She tapped her foot and crossed her arms over her chest. “If you think for one minute, I’m going out that door with you, think again, buddy.”
Mike stifled a laugh, finding her amusing, obviously she didn’t trust him. Not that he blamed her, he did lie to her, and she didn’t know him from Adam. What did he expect?
“What were you doing in that room, buster, and if you don’t tell me who you are, I’m going to scream for help.”
“Okay, okay, quiet down.” Hell, she meant business. “I was following you.” He tried to sound serious, but he couldn’t. He found the whole situation humorous. “My name is Mike Powell, room 110, but I don’t belong in this home.” He held out his hand toward her.
“Yeah, none of us belong here,” she scoffed. “Why were you following me?”
Since she ignored his outstretched hand, Mike lowered it. “I was curious to see where you were going in the middle of the night.”
“Humph.” Elsa tapped her foot. “So why are you here?”
“I fell and there wasn’t anyone to take care of me. My wife passed away three years ago, and I don’t have any children. So they threw me in here for therapy.”
“I never see you in therapy.”
“That’s ’cause I don’t need it anymore.”
“Humph. So how come you’re still here?”
“Nothing to go home to. I have more fun here. They don’t know I can get out of bed.”
“And just how did you pull that off?” Elsa seemed surprised to hear he had fooled the nurses into thinking he couldn’t get out of bed.
“Simple, I refuse to get out of bed. Of course….” He combed his fingers through his thinning white hair and laughed. “They don’t know about my night time escapades.
“Ah, I know who you are. You’re that difficult man. I hear them talking about. You don’t eat, refuse to take your medicine, or even get out of bed. They call you the ‘Geriatric Rebel’.”
Mike chuckled. He liked the sound of her voice, musical, not raspy or whiney like the other women here. “So why are you here?” he asked. “You don’t seem like the typical resident.”
“Humph, kids are on vacation and don’t want to bother with me. I’m Elsa Logan, by the way.” Elsa turned away. “I better get back. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.” She left him standing in the hall.
A quiver of something familiar went through him as she disappeared down the hall and into her room.
Mike sighed as Doris’s soft hands slid over his forehead and soothed him. He liked her voice, soft, sweet, almost sing-songy. But no amount of cooing was going to make him get out of this bed. You would think after a month of trying, she’d give up. The others had.
“Come on, Mike, you know it’s not good to lay here like this.”
He squeezed his eyes closed ignoring her, wishing her away.
“Just leave me alone!”
“Okay, Mike, but you’re not doing yourself any good.” Doris left and closed the door.
Guilt gnawed at him the minute the words came out of his mouth. He shouldn’t have yelled at her like that, she was one of the few nurses in the home who bothered with him, and he savored the pampering. She’d been coaxing him to get up to socialize for a month. Sure, socialize, like half the residents here would even remember. Except Elsa.
Elsa with her curly silver hair, quick temper, beautiful smile and bright blue eyes, he closed his eyes, remembering the previous night.
Mike smiled at the memory. He couldn’t wait to see her again. He napped off and on throughout the day to help pass the time. Finally, they dimmed the lights. Now was his chance. He sneaked into the hall, and there she was peeking out of her room. Was she looking for him? He hoped.
“Hi, Elsa.” Strange, he felt shy with her. He’d never been shy a day in his life. Not with his wife, not with anyone. Never one to mind getting up in a crowd to speak, this shyness made him uncomfortable. “Want to go for a walk?”
She gestured for him to lead the way.
“Wait, how are we going to get back in?” Elsa stopped and pulled him back at the exit.
“Don’t worry, the door doesn’t lock. Look.” He went out, pulled the door closed and then pushed it open. “”Come on.” He led her out to the parking lot.
“How come the alarm didn’t go off?”
“I disabled it and jimmied the lock.”
She stumbled as she hurried to keep up with him. “Do you think you could slow down a little?”
He waited for her to catch up. “Sorry, I forget old people can’t keep up with me.” He took her hand. Something about her brought out his playful side, a side long forgotten.
“Who are you calling old, you blustery old fool?” She pulled her hand away, planted it on her hip, and glared at him.
This was definitely a woman to reckon with “You’re really pretty when you’re mad.”
“Humph.” She furrowed her brow and stepped away from him.
Uh, oh he had pushed her too far, but he couldn’t help teasing her, he felt so alive.
“I’ll show you mad.” Elsa swung her fist, just missing him.
“Hey, I was joking.” He grabbed her hand. “Truce?”
She pulled her hand away but gave him an agreeable nod. They stepped out into the parking lot and to a clump of trees.
“This is my special place.” He led her beyond the trees to a small grassy area. “It’s where I come when I want to get away from them.” He nodded toward the home.
Elsa sat on the grass next to him. “It’s like a million miles away from them isn’t it? It’s been a long time since I’ve been out in the evening. Thank you for bringing me here.”
Mike stroked the back of her hand, enjoying the intimacy of the moment. “Why do you steal the water pitchers?” He couldn’t help being curious about the soft-spoken, petite woman with the quick temper, who invoked feelings he hadn’t felt since his wife died
“Just for the fun of it- I get bored. Besides, I can’t sleep at night.” She shrugged
“I took the nurses’ lunches a couple of times,” he said, “but usually I just come out here.”
“That was you?” Elsa giggled. “They talked about it for weeks. Boy, were they mad.”
Mike liked the youthful sound of her laugh He suddenly felt young and mischievous. “Let’s go back and fill their coffeepot with ice.” He squeezed her hand as he helped her up.
Pushing the door open a crack, he looked down the hall. “Okay, coast is clear, come on.” He led Elsa to the break room, looked inside. Empty. He motioned her inside and followed her in.
“Stand guard, while I fill the coffee pot.” Mike couldn’t help but laugh as he dumped a couple of containers of ice into the pot. “That should do it.”
They laughed so hard, he was afraid they’d get caught. Elsa shushed Mike as they walked to her room. He hugged her goodnight. Warmth surged through him like a tidal wave when she hugged him back. He hurried back to his room, feeling more alive than he had in years.
Maybe I’ll get up tomorrow, he thought. He chuckled, remembering their conversation, ‘Geriatric Rebel’ they have no idea. He sighed before he fell asleep.