Chapter Six....Happy Birthday Tom


Tom Jowett was born on the 18th March 1914 his neighbour 19th March 1934. Their birthdays were  20 years apart. They had much in common. Both had come up the hard way, their values were similar, they could be and were cantankerous at times and both had keen minds. They could be tough in many respects, they loathed injustice and had compassion for those underprivileged or badly treated. On the odd occasion they had words, but their camaraderie was such that they carried on as if nothing had happened.

It was the second birthday that had come around to Tom, since their severed relationship that caught Bruce a little by surprise. He was writing at the time when his mind turned to the fact that it was tomorrow that Tom would be 85. On impulse he found a suitable card in his wife's collection in the linen press and wrote in it 'Happy Birthday Tom, ...it is a pity we don't talk anymore' He signed it and went around to Tom's home and slipped the card in his letter-box. He did not give it another thought.

It was a couple of days later that the phone rang. On the end of the line was a barely audible depressed voice 'Bruce is that you. Would you come over and see me sometime?' It was the last thing that Bruce expected was to hear Tom's voice.

" Is that you Tom', the element of surprise in his voice.

' Yes', he said quietly as if depressed

'You sound a bit down old mate. Are you Ok?'

Tom did not reply, so Bruce said 'If you unlock the gate, I'll come over now.' to which Tom responded 'Now?'

What confronted Bruce Whiteside will remain etched in his memory as if it happened yesterday. He went to the door and without going inside immediately, was frozen. Tom was but a shadow of when he had last set eyes on him and he was disorientated.

'Tom what is wrong?', the anguish sounfing in his voice.

As he walked inside toward the old war veteran, Tom spoke.

'It's the loneliness and lack of companionship', that I can't handle.

Bruce hugged the old man, as he wept on his shoulder. It was a poignant moment and in that brief space of time his mind went back to the time, seven years  when his own father incarcerated in a nursing home had said the same thing, word for word.

'Tom sit down while I make a hot cup of tea. I promise you that you will never be lonely or lack companionship again', and as Tom pulled out a chair, he said 'You were always a good friend'.

After spending a couple of hours, Tom brightened up. He was terribly thin. Small in stature he had weighed close to 10 stone, but he would be no heavier that eight now if he was lucky. In fact he was 7st 10lbs.

When Iris came home from U3A, that faculty that encouraged older people to exhibit their latent or forgotten talents, Bruce told her about his encounter with Tom Jowett.

'Old Tom next door, you mean??'

'Yes'.

'What brought that on. He hasn't been near for months'.

'Iris you should go over and say Hello, I think it would mean a lot to him.

Now Bruce's wife was not the easy target as he believed she was. Tom had asked her a few times too if she would become an executor. She never took him seriously simply because she was not all that endeared to him This was counter to most of the women who came in contact with him. He had a charm that flattered women and if that did not work he often gave them small gifts, some that belonged to his late wife. This was a aspect of his character that Bruce was to realise later was exploited for gain. Iris treated him courteously but kept him at a distance, which was not always easily done with Tom.

Iris had been even more shocked than her husband. Her first comment after greeting him, 'Tom are you feeding yourself', to which he responded, 'Not really dear'.

Tom knew how to survive and he was a cunning old war-horse, for all his charm. Had it suited him he would have said that in the hope that someone would cook his meals, but the stark reality was that at 85, he was more prone to put off cooking regular meals and if he was up to it buy fish and chips, or the odd pie. It was obvious to Iris that he was starving to death and the Blue Care nurse in charge was oblivious. Why, was not to remain a question in the mind of Bruce for long.

'I'll bring you a hot meal over shortly Tom. I don't think you have had a decent meal in weeks by the look of you'.

'Thank you dear', and she was gone.

'It wouldn't take a great deal more to cook for three would it Iris', Bruce put tentatively to his wife.

'You must have been reading my thoughts again. You thinking the same as I am that we should do it each night'.

And so it was for the next nine months the Whiteside's at their own cost feed Tom Jowett ...but there were obstacles created to not only dissuade, but intimidate them. That action came from the Blue Care nurse Carole Crozier. Later that year the reason became all to clear.

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