The Senior Center

by DG Hear

Copyright© 2013 by DG Hear

Romantic Story: Working with the elderly, I learn a lot. Valentine's Day story.

Tags: Romantic  

There is no sex in this story. It could go in Romance or Mature. It's a story about a young woman who became a nurse in a Senior Citizen Center and a friend she became very fond of. Thank you to Mr. Wolf for editing this story for me.

Chapter 1

My name is Nina and this story begins when I got the position of being a nurse at a senior living facility. I have to say I was very nervous at first but after awhile I loved my job. I had recently graduated from college with a nursing degree but I still took courses to improve my knowledge and update my skills.

I usually worked the second shift so I helped my guests with dinner and getting ready for bed. I preferred to call them guests instead of patients. I believed they had earned that right.

Most of our guests were here because they were elderly or were unable to live on their own. Their families were too busy and didn't have the time to help them properly. That is when they would move in to our facility.

I loved those people. My story will mainly be about Ben Johnson, a man in his seventies. We became really good friends. He may have seemed grumpy to some people but I found him fascinating and a great story teller.

First, a little about myself; my name is Nina Moore, I'm twenty-three and recently broke up with my latest boyfriend after catching him cheating on me. To be honest we were friends for two years but only became more serious in the last six months. Before Jake I had dated a few men, but nothing serious.

I spent my time studying and learning my nursing skills. I was an only child and raised by my grandparents. My parents were killed when I was just a child and my dad's parents raised me. I loved them so much. They were a bit more strict seeing they were from an older generation but I did my best to do as they asked.

Grandma was a great cook and because of that I was considered on the heavy side. I didn't date much in school even though I was popular. I was said to have a very bubbly personality. I think that was how my friends told me that I was overweight. I was just a bit chubby and began working on my eating habits and working out when I could find the time.

I needed to get out on my own and had recently got my own apartment. I still stopped by to see my grandparents regularly. To me they were my Mom and Dad. I didn't remember my parents since they died while I was at a young age. My grandparents kept their memories alive by telling me stories about them. I really wish I could have gotten to know them.

Unlike most young people, I find talking to older people a delight. Sure there's the growling and talk of loneliness and pain but there's the other side where they can tell you so much about life and history. I found out all I had to do was listen to them. They really had so much to say and all they needed was an audience.

When I first met Ben he seemed grumpy but as we got to know each other better I found out he was really intelligent; he remembered everything. Instead of Alzheimer's like some older people, I believe he had a photographic memory. He told me it wasn't as good as it once was but he seemed to know a little about everything.

We would talk and he would tell me things. Later I'd go on-line to see if what he told me was the truth or if he made it up. It was always the truth but some things were his opinions.

His daughter would stop in and see him twice a week. She never stayed very long. Ben said it was his choice to move into the senior center. At his home he felt he was just in the way. At least at the center he had a lot of friends around his age and most still had their sanity; those were Ben's words.

We would often talk when I wasn't busy with my other guests. Over time I had grown to love this old man. He was so real and was so smart. He had lived in the center for two years.

It all began when he had fallen and broke his leg. He came to the senior facility for rehab and said that he enjoyed having people around to talk with. When I asked him about his family he told me his daughter married the neighborhood banker. Eventually he became the president of the local bank.

He had one grandson, Rob, who was in the service and stationed near Iraq. He told me that he and Rob were best friends and did everything together. He taught him how to hunt, fish and took him everywhere with him.

After Rob graduated from high school he chose to go in the Air Force and signed up for four years. He came home twice on leave to see his family. It was before I started at the center. He had less than a year to go before coming home for good or he could re-enlist, Ben was hoping he wouldn't re-enlist as he really missed his grandson. You could hear it in his voice when he talked about Rob.

Ben told me how proud he was of Rob and that he flew to San Antonio, Texas to see him graduate from basic training and spent a few days with him. Rob was the one really bright spot left in his life.

I talked to some of the other nurses and they told me that Ben was a very rich man. He turned over much of his estate to his daughter and put some money away for his grandson. I found out that the mansion down the road belonged to the Parsons family. That would be Ben's daughter and her husband. It had been known as the Johnson mansion until Ben gave it to his daughter and her husband.

When I asked Ben about the mansion, he just laughed. He said life wasn't all about money but what you get out of life. He said Barb, his daughter, and her husband John were good people but all they ever talked about was finances. They were worried a lot about their image in the community.

Rob on the other hand was more like Ben. At least that's what Ben said. Rob was intelligent and wanted to get away on his own for awhile. That's why he joined the Air Force. Ben showed me post cards that he received each month from his grandson.

Many years ago Ben was a Marine and had fought in Vietnam. He told me, "Once a Marine, always a Marine". It was a part of his life that he preferred not to talk about. He did talk about his good times in the service but not Vietnam. He said he lost too many close friends and it was a low point in his life.

After returning from the service, Ben said he attended college and studying seemed to come so easy to him. He received a degree in finance in three years and became a stock broker. He ended up marrying his high school sweetheart, Mary, and they had a daughter and a son. His son died in a car accident when he was a teenager. That was another low point in his life.

He believes that's why he took Rob under his wing. He treated Rob like his son. His wife Mary passed away from cancer four years ago. After that he kind of went downhill. If it wasn't for Rob, he couldn't care if he lived or died.

On to brighter things. I would watch Jeopardy some nights with Ben and I swear he knew all the answers. The nurses told me he always seem to get the answers right. He gets along with most everyone who works at the senior center. What he doesn't like is if someone treats any of the patients like second class citizens.

He pays for his room and board himself. He doesn't use any social services. I later found out that he donates a quarter million dollars a year to our center. Needless to say if someone wasn't treated nicely, he had the clout to do something about it.

What's funny is you wouldn't know his financial situation by looking at him or even talking to him. He is just a nice old guy that treats everyone with respect. He doesn't want to be treated special in anyway.

They often play cards or other board games at the center and if he wins, he wants his candy bar or other prize. He would say, "I won it, I want it." He can't find anyone to play scrabble or other word games with him; they all know they don't stand a chance. Often times some of the nurses or even office staff will take a chance on playing a game of scrabble with him. He rarely loses, if ever.

He asked me to play and I told him only if we could use five letter words or less. He laughed and we did play a few games like that. I did go online and found a scrabble dictionary that if you put the letters into it it would tell you all the words you can spell out. Ben laughed when I told him about it and he let me use it.

I've even won a few games. Now other people play scrabble with him also and Ben lets them all use the 'descrambler'. He doesn't use it but says it does make it a bigger challenge.

The holidays were approaching and he would tell me all these stories from past Christmas's and New Year's. He tells us all how Christmas began and how all the different religions celebrated the holidays. His personal stories of holidays were always interesting.

He left the center for two weeks and went home for the holidays. I had to say I really missed him. He was actually going with his daughter and her husband over to Germany to meet up with Rob, his grandson. He was so excited.

Before he left he took a picture of me. I asked him what for and he said he wanted to show it to Rob. I have to admit I was a bit embarrassed but it did make me feel good. He kept a picture of Rob on his nightstand and I do have to say he was a hunk in his uniform.

When Ben returned from Germany he was so happy. He even bought me and the other center help gifts from Germany. Most were imported candy, trinkets, and things like that. He handed me a second small package. In it was a silver necklace with my birthstone on it. When I told him "Thank you", he said it wasn't from him and he handed me a sealed card with my name on it.

He said Rob told him to give it to me for taking care of his grandfather. I had to admit it brought tears to my eyes. I had never met Rob but had seen his picture that his grandfather showed me, he was a good looking man and had sent the card with the necklace.

"Dear Nina;

Thank you so much for being part of my grandfather's life. He really likes and respects you. He has had it rough since the death of his wife, my grandmother. It felt so good to see him smile again. He gives you the credit for that, saying you are a joy to be near.

I'll be home for good hopefully in June and hope to meet you. Grandpa gave me a picture of you. I hope you don't mind.

Your friend


I didn't know what to say. Ben said he didn't read the card. He hoped Rob wrote something nice. "It was very nice Ben. Please thank him for me when you write to him."

"Nina, you can tell me to mind my own business but do you go out on dates. You seem to be here most every evening?" asked Ben.

"No, I've been bitten more than once and I'm not in a hurry to get bitten again. I like being here and learning so much from the older generation. I know it's silly but I feel more comfortable. During my time off I help my grandparents. Why do you ask?"

"Valentine's Day is coming and I was wondering if you had someone special to celebrate it with," replied Ben.

I smiled and told him I had nothing special planned. In fact I had to work that evening. I went about my chores and let my mind wander. I did think about Ben and his good looking grandson, Rob. No, it could never happen, Rob was just thanking me for taking care of his grandfather.

One evening I was sitting with a group of guests when Valentine's Day came up. I mentioned that every February 14, across the United States and in other places around the world, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. I asked this mature group who is this mysterious saint, and where did these traditions come from?

Ellen a lady in her eighty's smile and told us a couple of stories about how she met her husband and how they celebrated Valentine's Day. A number of the guests told stories from Valentine's Day past. It was great listening to all the stories.

Ellen asked Ben how he celebrated Valentine's Day when he was younger and instead of telling about his experiences, he explained the legend of St. Valentine and the history of Valentine's Day.

Ben began, "We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?

"The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death."

"Ben, we understand that you know a lot of history but we want to know any celebrations that you might remember from your past," said June, another guest. "You must have some personal memories."

Ben continued, "There are other stories that suggest Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first 'Valentine' greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl - possibly his jailor's daughter - who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed "From your Valentine," an expression that is still in use today."

June and Ellen were getting aggravated with Ben. Ellen said, "Ben, we all know some history. I know that Americans began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, you probably didn't even know that Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America.

"Howland was known as the 'Mother of the Valentine' made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as 'scrap.' Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine's Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. Also, in case you didn't know, women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines."

Ben started laughing. "I love you women. You're not afraid to speak up and tell it like it is. I'll tell you a couple of stories that I'll always remember."

I looked around and everyone was waiting to hear Ben's story. Ben talks about a lot of things but never much about his past. There must have been ten of us sitting there telling stories.

Ben began his story. "When I was in high school I had a crush on Mary. We did end up getting married." I could see a smile cross his face. You could tell he really loved her.

"Harold Andrews, also liked Mary. I was a bit more shy than Harold so it was hard for me to talk to Mary. I would often buy her chocolate candy and put it on the edge of her desk when we went outside at lunch time. When we would come back in, it was always gone. I knew it was Harold who always took it. He would either eat it or give it to Mary saying it was from him."

"So, what did you do?" blurted out a smiling Ellen.

"Well, Valentine's Day was coming up so I bought her an extra large box of individually wrapped chocolate candy. I also bought a box of ex-lax. You know, the kind that helps give you the shits." Everyone was laughing, they knew what was coming up.

"I gently unwrapped each piece of chocolate and rewrapped a piece of ex-lax in each piece of foil and then placed them in the nice chocolates box. When everyone was leaving for lunch I noticed Harold was still in the room. So I acted like I didn't see him and placed the box of chocolates, really ex-lax, on Mary's desk and went outside." Ben started laughing.

"Come on Ben, what happened. Did Harold take the candy? What about Mary? What would have happened if she would have ate the candy?" asked Ralph, one of the guests.

"I was in the cafeteria eating my lunch, and just watching Mary at the next table. She kept looking at me and smiling. Needless to say I smiled back; she knew I liked her. A couple of times in the past I asked her if she liked the chocolates I gave her and she told me she only received them from Harold. She asked if I was I sure I put them on her desk? I told her yes and she seemed a bit confused.

"As I looked at her Harold came in with the box of chocolates I put on Mary's desk. He had opened them and was eating them. He sat down next to Mary and offered her a piece of candy. She looked up at me and I started shaking my head, 'No!' and mouthing don't take any. Harold was playing the macho role and didn't even look at me.

"Mary started to take a piece and looked at me again. She stopped and told Harold maybe later. A couple of Harold's buddies came over and each took a couple of pieces. It was then that Harold looked up at me and laughed."

"What happened next Ben? Did Harold get the shits?" laughed Larry.

"Let me finish the story for Pete's sake," replied Ben.

"When we got back to our classroom I had a heart shaped box of chocolates I gave to Mary. She smiled at me and said, 'Thank you'. She opened it and offered me a piece. I took a piece to let her know it was ok to eat. Harold looked over at us and looked surprised. He raised his hand and asked to go to the restroom. He was followed shortly by his two friends.

"His buddies made it there in time but Harold didn't. He shit himself and didn't come back to class and was even off the next day. After school I told Mary what I did and why I did it. After staring at me without saying anything, she leaned over and kissed me for the first time.

"I wasn't afraid of Harold and he never bothered me or Mary again. After graduation I went in the service but Mary and I corresponded all the time. Every Valentine's Day I made sure to give her a heart shaped box of candy. After returning from the service we got married.

"I still got her a heart shaped box of chocolates for Valentine's Day every year till the day she died. Whenever we ate a piece we were reminded of that one day at school that brought me my first kiss."

We women had tears in our eyes after hearing Ben's story. The guys all just laughed. I do believe that Ben had a tear in his eye also. He tried to blame it on allergies but I knew better.

Chapter 2

I talked to my grandfather and told him about Ben at the senior center. My Grandpa, Neil, decided to go visit Ben. He liked to get out of the house once in awhile and away from grandma. I introduced him to Ben and they both hit it off even though they had completely different backgrounds.

They were both in the service but when Grandpa got out of the service he was a maintenance man at an auto company. He just retired a couple of years ago. One thing they both had in common was they liked to fish. Ben suggested after it warmed up that they could get together and go fishing.

Grandpa told him he liked fishing even when it was cold as long as the lake wasn't frozen over. They agreed to go fishing the following Saturday. When I talked to Ben he said he really like my granddad. In fact granddad was going to stop by a couple of times a week to visit Ben and they were going to play chess and checkers. Granddad was good at both.

After that when I would see Ben at work he just seemed happier. I was happy for both he and Grandpa. Grandma would often bake something for Grandpa to take with him to the senior center. I did let her know that Ben was diabetic and had to watch his sugar intake. He shared the baked goods with everyone.

On Valentine's Day Ben had his daughter pick up about a dozen boxes of candy to pass out to the nurses and a few of the other guests. He gave me a big heart shaped box and said it's what he used to give to his deceased wife Mary. I did ask him if the candy was ok to eat remembering his story. It made him laugh.

Life went on and before I knew it, it was June. Granddad was still visiting Ben twice a week and they would go fishing at least once a week. They became really good friends.

I came to work one day and Ben was really happy, a lot more than usual. When I asked him what put him in such a good mood he said he had a surprise for me. I looked up and saw a man in uniform. I knew it was Rob.

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