“Hi Dad,” a voice said in his ear, “Are you awake?” He slowly came back from the past and opened his eyes to see his daughter standing beside him. “Yes, I’m awake, sweetheart. How are you?” “I’m fine thanks, Dad,” she replied, straightening the cushion that was so comfortably behind his stiff shoulder. “How are you? You look a bit pale to me. Aren’t you eating enough? Should I bring some snacks for you? Don’t they feed you enough?” “I’m fine,” he replied, “Just bored, I guess.” “Oh, you should join in with the others and play cards or draughts or something. Do you want some books to read? I feel really bad having you stuck away here. Maybe you need to come home with us. I’d feel a lot better if I knew you were eating some lovely home cooking instead of institutionalized food.” “No, I’m fine thanks. I know you guys are flat out and that you’re really busy with your kids as well as work. I’m Ok. You’ve got your own lives to lead now.” “Ok, if you insist, Dad. But remember there’s always a place for you at home if you want it. It must be very lonely here, but I guess there’s lots of people around so you wouldn’t really be lonely, would you?” “There are two types of loneliness. The first is when you’re alone and lonely. That is easy to deal with because you have yourself and the environment and you can establish a rapport with that. I have never felt lonely when I’m alone. The second, and most common these days, is being alone and lonely when surrounded by people. I have felt that often, and certainly I feel it here. Oh how I miss your mother, my darling Sylvie.” “Yes, Dad, that was sad but really there’s nothing anyone can do about that. Anyway, it was good to see you. Oh, I’ve brought some cookies for you. I know you enjoy these.” “Thanks, sweetheart. You look after me so well,” he replied. “Now, I’ve really gotta go. I’ve got a meeting in a few minutes on the other side of town and then I have to organise dinner and stuff like that. I tell you, you just wouldn’t know how hectic life can be. You’re certainly in the best place here being looked after by all these wonderful staff. ‘Bye, Dad. See you next time.” “’Bye, darling. Love you.” She gave him a peck on his bald head then hurried out the door. He watched her leave, thinking how great it is for her to spare the time to visit. He tossed the cookies on the table, thinking that the one thing he would like is time, time spent with loved ones instead of endless reminiscing. Now where was he? He closed his eyes again, not because he wanted to sleep or was tired; just because there was nothing worth looking at. That’s right, his marriage. It was a lovely ceremony, pretty radical for that era. They had written their own vows and made them very seriously. He was proud of the fact that he had honored them and, as far so had Sylvie; of that he was certain. It had been a wonderful marriage. Nearly fifty years together. He remembered their honeymoon, paid for by tips from the restaurant they both worked at during weekends and holidays, camping on a deserted beach for a week. Again a bliss that was best not to last. He remembered their first house, the joy of renovating and extending it; their first child, now a grown woman with children of her own. Tears appeared in his eyes as he remembered the sheer pain, panic and helplessness he had experienced when he had accompanied his beloved Sylvie to the operating theater after nearly 30 hours of labor and watched as the doctor sliced open her belly and removed her first born daughter. Sylvie had healed and went on to have two more wonderful children by normal childbirth. However, he wondered if he had fully healed the emotional scars from that experience. He remembered the joys and struggles of travelling to work in various areas of the country, uprooting the family with each change as the children grew bigger, needed more guidance and love, had their own personal traumas, which to them always seemed so huge, so insurmountable. Then came the nudges out of his complacency; two nudges from workplace accidents to push him into different work areas, requiring many weeks a year away from home, away from his beloved Sylvie and his growing children. He remembered with deep regret all the times he wasn’t there for them; of returning from a few days away working to find his youngest daughter was in hospital without her appendix. It is said that without the pain of parting, there cannot be the joy of reunion. For those years, when his children were developing into adults, he had much pain and much joy.