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Updated on October 9, 2008

Now I've had it for real !!The old man got a little scared when he heard my voice and his finger with which he tried to command and correct everyone back and forth fell slowly down. Even though he could not express himself in a normal way because of his illness, the strokes he had, he tried to adapt everyone to his advantage. But this was just too much. Customer is always king, NO way! Believe me, in my twenty years of working as a nurse, I don't get mad very often. Especially towards my own patients I use to be understanding and respecting. One way or another, he knew it. He knew that I meant what I said. And from that moment on, this 90 year old man and me, we became closer.

For a very long time he was approached as compulsive demented person, not only colleague and other patients did that, but also his family at home. He still lived at home. Only during the day he came to us. At least 2 days a week. So his wife could get out of their home herself and do the things she loved to do. But she couldn't take it any longer. The old man terrorized her at home by bossing her around and keeping her from her sleep.

"People have to stop asking so many questions", he told me when I was walking with him down the hallways of the nursing home. "Something the physical therapist didn't do anymore because he was too self-conceited to cooperate with them." I can't tell them the answers", he said.

But he didn't mind me asking him questions, maybe because he knew I was even more self- conceited then he was. He accepted that I told him what to do. I admit, sometimes it was quite a puzzle to know what he meant to say, because of his afactic disorder after his stroke.

He was crazy about numbers.They meant a lot for him because of his former job when he had to calculate a lot. Numbers that didn't mean much for his surrounding, but after talking to him every day during our walk, I got to understand him more and more and he started to talk more in "normal" sentences. For example, when he talked about his stroke, he told me that 2 out of 4 had broke down, pointing at his head.

At a given moment in time we held real conversations. Everytime we were alone. When he saw someone else, he kept his mouth. During one of our walks he started to talk strange again."Horse jump", he said."One step forward and 1 slantingly". And he looked at me."We're not playing chess, we're exercising", I told him. When he heard the word "chess" he started to laugh."In the old days, in the old days", he said. He used to love playing chess.

Because of his more badly becoming memory once in a while I put a knot in his big red handkerchief."Next week we're going to play chess", I told him while I showed him the knot in order to help him remember. (It's a custom with us to say to put a knot in your handkerchief when you have to remember something)

And the week after that, he showed me his red hanky, without the knot. "Forgotten", he said. But I didn't, and from that moment on, we played chess each day he was with us. Every time, same time, when everyone went to bed to take a nap, we played. And he was good. He laughed, made jokes about how he was going to make me lose the game. And indeed. Most of the time I'd lose. My collegae were astonished about his game and his memory. This old grumpy old man who terrorized everyone around him, laughed and had the time of his life.

But at home his wife didn't. At home he was still the demented bastard who didn't care. So his wife decided to admit him at the nursing home.

To be sure he would end up at the right nursing unit and not with the demented patients; I took him to the psychologist. He wasn't really happy about it, because he didn't want to talk to other people, and especially to people who wanted to declare him insane like he called it himself.

Research was done. A lot of forms were filled in and we played chess in front of the psychologist."You see, I'm not crazy. I'm not demented. I just don't want them to ask too many questions I can't answer". That was all he said

The score lists were examined, the reports read. No demented he was certainly not. But he couldn't live at home anymore. He couldn't talk to his wife, so he bossed her around; made sure she wouldn't get any sleep and made her life hell. He knew what the consequences were. And all he said was: "What has to be done, will be done"

We had found him a nice room, large enough and with a nice view. A table by the window were we could play chess like we did before. But first he had to get used in his new surroundings. I'd told him, that when he got used to everything and everyone, I would come over and play chess with him.

For two weeks, the old man used his finger and his voice to make sure that everyone started to dislike him. Just like at home. He screamed, threw things at the nurses heads, got mad when they asked him too much. And while screaming and throwing, he fell.

After two weeks of kicking asses, I had no longer to go and play chess with him.

"Checkmate" you old pal.


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      Jitu 3 years ago

      Hey Ben,I'm a brit in Santiago looking to concent with more people. Just stumbled onto your blog, enjoyed what you wrote, the slight humor, and tell it like it is stance. Would be good to meet up. Hit me up at my email address (all one word') dare musik at yahoo canada(.ca) (Im in bellavista area. 26. m. straight)

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      Melia 3 years ago

      The answer of an exeprt. Good to hear from you.