The Mystery of The Aging Parent: A Nancy Drew Mystery Story
NANCY DREW, an attractive 58 year old woman, was driving along a suburban neighborhood street in her dark blue convertible. She had just delivered a fresh batch of Depends to her father, Carson Drew, a retired, well respected, but now incontinent lawyer in their home town of River Heights. At 90 years old, he still lived in the large, red brick house Nancy grew up in on Beech Street.
“It was sweet of Dad to mistake me for my long dead mother,” she thought as she tried to put a positive spin on his advancing dementia. “He depends on me for so much now. At times, it’s just the littlest bit overwhelming.”
As she sped down Elm Street, she realized she hadn’t eaten any lunch. “I know,” she thought, “I’ll just nip into Dairy Queen for a quick bite.” The friendly face of Joe Hardy greeted her as she walked in the door. “Hi Joe,” she chirped merrily. She always felt a little bit bad that the Hardy boys were forced to shut down their detective agency. Well, if she was being completely honest with herself, she felt bad that she didn’t feel all that bad for them because it meant more cases for her.
“Hey there, Nancy Drew, Girl Detective!” Joe loved ribbing her. Nancy scowled playfully and corrected him, “That’s Grown Woman Detective. I’d never say ‘Hey there, Joe Hardy, Boy Manager.' It’s 1985, get with the times! Plus, we’re both in our 50’s!” They went through this little routine every time she came into the Dairy Queen. It was starting to get just the tiniest bit old. Especially since Nancy knew, as the manager of the River Heights Dairy Queen and a person with a penis, Joe was paid 36% more than a person with a vagina doing the very same job. Even though it was 1985.
“Well as the Manager of this establishment, what can I get for you? The usual?”
“Sounds good, Joe. How’s Frank doing?”
“Not bad. I’m picking him up from The Betty Ford next weekend.” Nancy’s face fell. Poor Frank had been struggling with “the drink” ever since the boys detective agency went out of business. A hazy memory of an evening with Frank Hardy and Jack Daniels in the back seat of her convertible surfaced. Or was it Joe? Back in the day, those boys were as alike as two bullets in a Saturday Night Special (‘Which,’ Nancy thought proudly, ‘I’m carrying right now in my pocketbook. The detective game is a lot riskier these days than it was when I started out’). Frank or Joe had asked her help in solving a case, The Mystery of the Lost Virginity, which, as she recalled, they had great fun solving. But that was 18 years ago. She pushed the thought aside, thanked Joe, and left with her burger and shake and drove to her office.
Suddenly, as she was walking through the door of her office, the phone rang. For just the smallest moment, Nancy wished she had a secretary to answer her phone. There was a brief time in the 1970’s during the Women’s Liberation, when hiring a female detective became popular and she was able to employ a part-time secretary. But then that Spenser fellow moved to town - she never could remember his first name - set up shop and, well, he was terribly handsome and a good cook…she shook her head, brushed the thoughts aside, lifted the receiver and said crisply, “Nancy Drew, Professional Detective. This is Nancy speaking.” The familiar voice of Hannah Gruen, the Drew family’s longtime housekeeper came through the phone line. At 106 years old, Hannah was still firing on all cylinders and as spry as she was at 86.
“Nancy!” she shouted. Even though she was still completely compos mentis, she had suffered some age related hearing loss. “It’s your father.” Nancy’s stomach lurched - partly, if she was being completely honest, due to the cheeseburger and milkshake she had just eaten - but mostly in reaction to Hannah’s panicked tone.
“What’s happened?” she cried.
“He fell while blowing his nose. I think he broke his hip. The ambulance is on the way. Meet us at the hospital.”
As she hung up the phone, Nancy’s mind began to whirl. “I wonder,” she pondered,”if this is really a simple case of The Older Person Falling or maybe…” she gasped when the thought occurred to her “…maybe it’s The Mystery of What to Do with My Aging Parent?”
NANCY had just finished locking up her office when her phone rang again. She paused and considered letting the answering machine get it, but the hungry detective in her couldn’t let a potential case slip by. She picked up the receiver and started to say “Nancy Drew, Pro…” but was cut off by a familiar voice.
“Mom. Tiffany Topham is having a party tonight. I need to go.”
“Oh Franny,” Nancy stuttered, “I’m so glad you called, your grand…”
“Mom. Everyone is going and if I don’t go I WILL DIE.”
“But honey, Granpop is…” Nancy began but was cut off by her insistent teenager.
“If you don’t let me go I will make your life a living hell for the rest of the summer, I swear it.”
“Frances Josephine. Do not speak to me like that! Your grandfather is in the hospital with a broken hip.” Just then a bloodcurdling scream deafened Nancy’s right ear.
“Oh heavens Franny, are you alright? Is there an intruder in the house? Did you see a ghost? Did your flashlight just reveal a hidden staircase? Was there a broken locket in an old clock that…”
“Mom stop,” Franny interrupted. “That was me. It’s the only way I know to get your attention. I just really need to go to that party. What was that about Granpop?”
CARSON DREW was sitting up in his bed, filling out a tall stack of forms when Nancy raced in through the door of his hospital room. “Dad!” she said with concern, “Are you alright?”
“If the broken hip doesn’t kill me, this paperwork will. Hello, darling.”
Nancy gave him a quick peck on the cheek. With her keen observational skills, she noticed that he was filling out insurance forms. When she looked more closely at her father, she saw that he had aged since she saw him this morning. “Are you in pain?” she asked.
“Heck no, I’m high as a kite,” he replied. “Which I thought would make this process a little more fun. But I can’t make any sense of it. Would you take care of this, Nancy dear?”
“Of course, Dad.” Nancy answered, taking the papers from him. “And maybe we should talk about where you might go after you get out of the hospital?”
“What do you mean?” her father’s face took on a puzzled look. “I’ll go back home of course!”
“But Dad,” Nancy said tentatively, “Perhaps it’s time to think about living in a smaller place without a second and third floor. If you had fallen while Hannah was out, who knows what… There’s a very nice place, The Old Folks Home, here in the River Heights area.”
Her father looked crestfallen. “ I’m not going to any compound for coots and codgers!” he said. “Why on earth would I want to spend my last bit of time on the planet surrounded by bad food and strangers? Tears stung his eyes as he continued.
“Why don’t I move in with you and…and…oh, uh… what’s her name?”
“Frances? Your granddaughter?”
“Yes, yes, her. Why don’t I move into your house? Hannah too. One big happy family in a really small ranch house.”
At the mention of her name, Hannah, who had been napping in the corner, was startled awake. “Don’t include me in that plan!” she bellowed. “I’m thinking about retiring to Canada. I have a feeling this Reagan fellow is in the process of screwing the middle class for generations to come. She immediately fell back to sleep.
Nancy had a hunch she was being faced with yet another mystery - The Secret of How to Tell Your 90 Year Old Father You Can’t Possibly Work Full Time, Take Care of Him and Single Parent Your Teenage Daughter. Then a shorter title occurred to her: The Sandwich Generation Mystery. Gosh she thought, I’m going to lose a lot of sleep trying to solve this one…
by Christine Stevens