Sunday, 1 June 2014

"I'm frightened of people"

my elderly friend told me.
It was an admission that did not surprise me but it did sadden me.
I had, despite the rain, gone to see an elderly friend in a nursing home yesterday. It was not what I wanted to spend a wet Saturday afternoon doing. I would have preferred to be sitting at the computer doing the rewrite of the book - something I have not had a chance to touch in the past eleven days.
I did not want to spend another afternoon visiting anyone in a close to hospital type environment. There has been too much going to and from a hospital recently - and I have to go again today.
But, I had promised something. I promised I would go to see her. It was not because she expected to see met that I went. I had made that promise to the young man who is living in her house and getting it ready for sale. I try not to break promises and I did not know if he had told her when he went to see her earlier in the week. As it was I was feeling guilty. My friend and her husband had been moved very suddenly. The move had not surprised me. He has Alzheimer's and she had a stroke at the beginning of the year. She has made a remarkable recovery from the stroke but looking after him was too much. They struggled on for a few months until places became available.
My friend has always seemed to lack confidence. I met her about twenty years ago - when she and her husband moved in to a house not far from here. She asked me where the closest pillar box was and I showed her. After that we talked when I saw her. I taught her how to use their computer because her husband was writing a book and she was doing the work of typing it up. Back then he was still teaching a course at the university.
I sensed then that he was a bully. She never seemed quite relaxed, even when he was out of the house. "R....won't like it," was something she told me often.
She is however the generation which has remained with their husbands because divorce was not to be considered, especially if you did not go back to work after the birth of the children. Even if it had been my place to say something it would have done no good.
But now they have been separated. He is in one nursing home and she is in another.
Despite the admission that she is frightened of people I sensed relief. She looked much more relaxed after just three weeks. While she had not wanted to go to the "rock-n-roll" concert that afternoon ("not my sort of music as you know") and she is not interested in football ("never have been") she spoke about going on an outing.
What did she do all day? She reads. She does crosswords and she is thinking about joining one of the groups in the wider complex.
"And I am going to watch some television in the evenings. R...would never let me watch television. He said it was all rubbish  but there are some good documentaries. I always wanted to watch some of those."
And, suddenly, more came tumbling out. The man had clearly tried to control every aspect of her life. What I had always suspected was correct. He was never physically abusive but he was an emotional bully. It is scarcely surprising that it left her frightened of people.
My friend is in her late eighties now. I don't know how much longer she has to live but I hope that the time she does have will be very different. I hope she sees all those nature and travel documentaries, that she sees all the places she never had a chance to see, that she can read all the non-fiction she wants without being told "you won't understand that" and that she finds some companionship in her new home.
I won't bother to go and see her husband. He would not remember I had been and - I really don't want to visit a bully. Is that wrong of me?


Vanessa Gebbie said...

Might be nice to go and tell him how happy she is, with her books, her TV, her new plans... he won't understand on many levels... but as you said yourself, its never too late to learn a lesson. MInd you, if it was me, I wouldn't go!

catdownunder said...

His daughter tells me it won't be worth the effort - I think that lets me out Vanessa!

jeanfromcornwall said...

Why bother to go and see him - it wouldn't do him any good.
I do hope the lady in the case has a spell of peace and happiness. I have seen that situation up close and personal, and know how much she deserves her reward.