Friday, 21 September 2012

I spent an unplanned

hour on the phone yesterday. I should have been doing other things but I am glad I spent that hour. Someone else needed to talk.
I feel for this person. She lives with, and cares for, a much older cousin. They have no other family at all.
They should have friends but there are also very few of those. I can understand why. The older cousin is not always the easiest person to get along with but the younger one feels  bound to care for her. The older one took her in when she was abandoned by her own mother at a very vulnerable age.  Now the situation is reversed and it is the older cousin who needs care. They are good people who have always been willing to help others but now they need some help too even if it is just someone who is willing to listen occasionally.
I see them about once a fortnight, sometimes for just a few minutes but I do try to keep contact because I know the younger woman feels isolated. I recognise their birthdays and give them home-made shortbread at Christmas. Their birthday and Christmas card list is very short and, while they may give one another presents, I doubt anyone else does.
Yesterday they lost their pet dog. She was a very well behaved little terrier and she was the centre of their lives. They are devastated. The dog had recently been for a check-up and been pronounced as being in excellent health for a twelve year old. They hoped to have her for another two or three years. It was not to be.
So the younger cousin rang me and wept. I know it was not "just" the loss of their dog. She admitted it made her even more aware that the older cousin, in her mid-eighties, is not well either. Yesterday the younger cousin clearly felt lost, lonely and more isolated than ever. She felt the lack of even a narrow circle of friendships. She apologised for wanting to talk to me "but there's nobody else".
All I could do was listen and sympathise. I was expecting a visitor I could not contact or I might have pedalled over to see them. I feel concerned for them. It is not good to be that isolated.
I know there are people who say, "It's their own fault. Nobody needs to be that isolated." Those who are critical are often people who have grown up in close knit and loving family units. They simply have no idea what it is like to feel rejected or why anyone should feel so uncertain and cautious about any sort of relationship, how difficult it can be for someone in the younger cousin's circumstances to make friendships. I am sure they do not mean to be unkind. They simply do not know.
So, I am glad I let her talk. I know that, today, she will be getting on with all the things that need to be done, with the seemingly endless round of medical appointments that make up their lives, the shopping and the housework.
She will not be walking the dog but there will be other things to do. And I hope that when the older cousin goes the younger one will have the courage to go out and do the other things she told me she has always wanted to do.


the fly in the web said...

When my husband was very ill for years we were extremely grateful to the people who took time to call, to come over and to lend an ear from time to time.
By its very nature illness isolates.

Allison said...

"And I hope that when the older cousin goes the younger one will have the courage to go out and do the other things she told me she has always wanted to do."

Perhaps when that time comes, you'll be able to introduce her to a few people who also enjoy the types of things she wants to do? Isolation is a very hard thing to break out of especially when one is lost, lonely and uncertain. I'm glad she has you for a safety valve now.

catdownunder said...

It is always hard though to get the balance right - the balance between caring and interfering. I hope I can do it!