true confessions

I fell in love with my geriatric patient

Tuesday, January 5, 2010
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I had always wanted to be a nurse, ever since I was a little girl. I thought it was a really honorable profession and that I could really make a difference. I started night shift at the nursing home just after I finished my training. At 21, it was my first real job and my first hands on nursing experience.

I chose geriatric nursing because I love old people - their wisdom and the way they look at life. I knew many of them might be lonely and thought I could be there for them. Nursing homes often have such bad reputations and I believed I could offer some top quality nursing, conversation and kindness to those who may not have a supportive family around them.

On my first night at the home the senior nurse took me around to meet the patients in my ward and helped me get them settled for bed. Most of the patients had decorated their rooms to make them homely and comfortable, filling them with pictures of their children and grandchildren.

The only one who hadn't was the last patient I met that night - Karl. He was German and had moved to Australia in the in the 1940s. He sat in his chair, surrounded by pictures of buildings and landmarks from all around the world - no children, no grandchildren, not even a photograph of a sweetheart. He looked very dapper in his dressing gown and cravat and stood carefully when I entered the room and introduced myself. He took my hand and gently kissed it. In his thick German accent he said, "Ah Emma. I knew a very beautiful girl in Germany named Emma. You are even more beautiful than her."

I blushed and pulled my hand away as the senior nurse told him to stop his nonsense and get ready for bed. I already had a boyfriend - crass, crude, motorbike riding Pete - whose idea of a compliment was a rough smack on the bum and telling me I'd made a nice dinner.

I had never had a man stand as I entered a room, kiss my hand and tell me I was beautiful.

After I had finished my rounds for the night and was getting ready for a much needed coffee, I walked past Karl's room and saw that while everyone else slept, he sat in his chair, door open, writing in his diary. I walked past quietly and for a moment hoped he was writing about me.

I loved working at the nursing home, even though there were sad times when one of my lovely patients got sick. I became very attached to them all and it was hard to see them slowly deteriorate with cancer or dementia.

After a few weeks I started to notice that I was looking forward to being at work more and more. The main reason for this was Karl. Every evening I would pop in to say goodnight and slowly started staying for a cup of tea and a chat.

Eventually I would finish my rounds and go and sit with him for the rest of the night. He was such a night owl that it was perfect for us. We would talk until the sun came up.

We were different in so many ways - at 76, he was 55 years older than me. We had completely different backgrounds and while my life was really just beginning, his was winding down. He was mentally quick and bright but his body was slow and old.

I would tell him about Pete and he would say, "You deserve someone better Emma. Someone who appreciates you."

We started to spend as much time together as possible. The hours away from him were torture. Pete and I were fighting all the time and all I wanted to do was be with Karl. We started sleeping together and even though he was old, he was a tender, gentle lover and and with some help from Viagra he could satisfy me even more than Pete could.

Our nights were spent talking and holding each other, except for the brief moments when I had to go and check on a patient or make an appearance in the tearoom so that the other nurses didn't get suspicious.

No one really thought it was possible for a girl like me - young and pretty - to fall for an old man. They thought I was just being kind and listening to his stories. Little did they know I had fallen in love with him.

Pete moved out saying that I was never there anyway. I wasn't sad to see him go. I just wanted to be with Karl all the time and even asked him to move in with me. He said he couldn't put that pressure on me to quit my job and look after him full time. I tried to convince him but he wouldn't.

A few weeks later it was our 3 month anniversary. I turned up to work with some of Karl's favourite foods in a picnic basket. I had baked his favourite apple teacake and brought some special cheeses that he couldn't have very often because of his health.

It was going to be a special night full of forbidden foods and love making. I had even bought a new lace teddy to surprise him - black with pink stitching and nice and high cut, just the way he liked them.

Smiling and excited, I burst into his room expecting to see him get up out of his chair but the room was empty. I felt sick. Something was very wrong. I felt the tears well up in my eyes. I dropped the basket of food and ran to the tea room. One of the nurses was there reading a magazine and having a cup of tea.

My voice shook as the tears ran down my face. "Where's Karl? Where's Karl??"

She looked up at me, "Oh darling, he died this afternoon. It was his heart. I know it's your first death here. I know it's a shock."

I let her hold me as I sobbed.

Afterwards I sat in his room, in the same chair he had sat in all those evenings. The room still smelt of him. I hugged one of his dressing gowns and breathed him in, wishing he was still alive.

I left my job soon after because the rumor mill went into overdrive. It was normal to miss a patient, to feel sad at their passing but people soon got suspicious of my constant tears and the fact that I was the sole beneficiary of his will. I used his money to travel the world, wishing with all my heart that he could have shared each moment with me. Then I came home and got a job at an office.

I still curl up in his chair at night with a glass of port, imagining him with me. I read his diary and my favourite page is decorated with sketches of pretty flowers and a few simple words - "Today I met a beautiful girl named Emma."

Picture: Getty Images. Posed by model.

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