Goodbye, Mr Peterson

It was a pleasant August afternoon, and Dave, Sarah, Will, and Eleanor Peterson, Dave’s parents Mary and Terrence, and Dave’s brother Jeff were sitting in the living room of Mary and Terrence’s gorgeous 15th Century Manor House in Sussex.

Dave, Sarah, Will, and Eleanor usually came to Sussex at the end of August to meet Dave’s parents, but this year Jeff came along as well, as Terrence was beginning to fade and he wanted to make sure he saw him at least one last time before he died.

They had just had a nice walk along the Seven Sister’s cliffs and were back at the house, having a rest before doing something else.

“Churchill wouldn’t have put up with this rubbish,” Terrence said as he watched the news report on Afghanistan. “Or Roosevelt for that matter.”

“Maybe,” Sarah said. “But hopefully the West will make up for it by housing the refugees they went into Afghanistan to protect in the first place.”

“Oh no, we don’t want that happening.” Terrence said. “The place will be crowded.”

“There are about 268,385 empty houses in the UK currently.” Sarah said.

“There are people here who need them,” Terrence said.

“Yes. But we also have plenty of room for refugees.” Sarah said.

“Perhaps.” Terrence said, and decided to end the conversation there, knowing that he probably wouldn’t be able to win an argument with his Guardian journalist daughter-in-law.

“The world’s going to hell in a hand cart,” Terrence said quietly to himself before staring blankly at the screen.

He would not speak again.

“It’s a shame Steve didn’t decide to come over here.” Jeff said. “He may never see dad again.”

“I don’t think he paticuarly cares anymore.” Dave said. “He’s not spoken to us in over thirty years. I don’t think he’s going to start now.”

“I understand why he decided to move to Australia,” Jeff said. “But I don’t understand why he decided to pretend we don’t exist.”

“Perhaps he wanted a new life in Sydney.” Dave said. “Who knows, he may not even be called Steve Peterson anymore.”

“Perhaps,” Jeff said. “I guess the two of us are still here in dad’s final hours.”

“How do you know these are his final hours?” Dave said. “He may live another year.”

“He’s been slowing down for the past year.” Jeff said. “There have been several false alarms already. I wouldn’t be here right now if I didn’t think it was going to be soon.”

“I guess so.” Dave said.

The two brothers sat in silence for a moment, pondering the current situation.

“Can we change the channel?” Eleanor asked. “I’m getting bored of this.”

“It depends on whether your grandad has finished watching the news.” Sarah said. She then turned to Terrence, who sat quietly in his chair.

“Are you still watching the news, Terrence?” Sarah asked.

Terrence did not respond. He simply stared at the screen.

“Terrence? Terrence?” Sarah asked.

“She wants to know whether you’re still watching the news, dear.” Mary asked her husband.

Terrence did not respond.

“Hello, Terrence?” Mary said.

Realising what may have happened, Sarah knelt down and listened to Terrence’s heartbeat; nothing. She then felt his pulse; still nothing.

Sarah suspicions were correct. Terrence Peterson; a man who fought in the Second World War and survived the Cold War, had died peacefully at home aged 106.

Dave and Jeff did not say anything. They knew what had happened.

“We didn’t even see it happen.” Jeff said.

“Did we need to?” Dave said.

“Well, it’s an important family moment.” Jeff said.

“At least we were here when it happened.” Dave said.

“I guess so.” Jeff said.

“Well, there goes Steve’s last chance to see his old man,” Jeff said as Terrence was driven away by the funeral director.

“Like I said before, he probably doesn’t care anymore.” Dave said.

“I guess.” Jeff said.

“The last conversation I had with him was arguing about Afghanistan,” Sarah said. “I sort of regret that now.”

“It’s ok.” Mary said. “He always loved politics and current affairs. It was why he was excited when Dave first introduced you to us. Believe me, my dear, it was the send off he would have wanted.”

“Thank you,” Sarah said before watching the funeral director fade from view.

The Peterson’s were then left in front of Mary’s 15th Century Manor House, not knowing what to do next.

“Shall we go to Rye?” Sarah said. “I think a change of scenery would be beneficial.”

“I could do with another walk,” Mary said.

“Ok, we’ll do that then.” Jeff said.

“Sure.” Dave said.

And with that, Mary, Dave, Sarah, Will, Eleanor, and Jeff walked off to Rye, reminiscing about the man that was Terrence Peterson.

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