I have often spoken highly of care givers who have taken care of mentally physically handicapped children/husbands etc. Several of my posts deal with the predicament of care givers and harped on the manner they deal with the challenges they face. However, care givers are humans too. It is not easy to be socially cut off from the world and pretend that all is well with them. One such person was Mrs. R S. I was a frequent visitor to their house till about 4 years back. My Husband and R S were colleagues and despite the difference in age their friendship continued after my husband’s retirement. The couple had a mentally retarded son. She would talk to me over the phone and would say that she would feel better after a chat session with me. It has all changed now. I am wary of a visit to their home. Reason?? I cannot pinpoint the cause but I get the feeling that all is not well in their family and Mr. R S perhaps thinks that I am not a good influence on his wife. No one has said it in words but there is something very wrong.
It all began when I invited the family for lunch. It was difficult to bring their son by scooter they said and I offered to pick them up and drop them back. I assured them that I had no problem if the son came along. I felt that Mrs. R S hardly went anywhere and this was perhaps the least she deserved. However, knowingly or unknowingly I had perhaps hurt Mr. R S by insisting that they all come over as a family. They had a college going daughter who offered to stay back and look after her brother.
“Mummy needs a change. So let her accompany papa. I'll stay back.” She had insisted.
I failed to take the hint and they came for lunch on a Sunday afternoon. I picked them up, dropped them back and on my way back told Mrs. R S that we could plan more such outings. She needed to go out once in a while.
After this incidence Mr. R S cut himself off from us in a very subtle and polished manner. He shifted residence but did not give us the new address. We came to know of it through a common friend. His wife did not know of the change in her husband’s attitude and rang me up asking me why I hadn’t visited their new home. I had to tell her that I did not know her address and she was kind of surprised. Known for being frank I went to their house and jokingly told Mr. R S that he owed us a party. He simply smiled and gave no explanation. I continued to be in touch with his wife but kept wondering what went wrong. Was it something between the men folk? My husband insisted that he had given no reason for Mr. R S to distance himself. He was probably busy at his work. Finally, when Mrs. R S told me that she had asked her husband to look after the son while she accompanied me to the temple and her husband was sarcastic when he spoke of her having friends who could pick her up and drop her back, I decided that enough was enough. If my good will gesture was going to be misinterpreted I was not going to stretch myself and hold on to the friendship. I still respond when she calls up. I visited R S when he was in hospital but that’s it.
Till date I wonder if I over reacted. Mrs. R S really needs me. I certainly don’t intend to create a rift between them. I feel very angry that he should let her handle the boy all by herself and not let her have an hour’s outing even on Sundays saying that he had to rest. Was that the reason or does he want her to lead a cocooned life always? I suppose she repeats our conversations - that are mainly counseling sessions – to him. Does it make him insecure? I do feel bad but I cannot impose myself on them. To top it Mrs. R S does not realize or understand that I deliberately avoid visiting her. She puts my not visiting or calling her to my being busy. Cooped up in the house with the son, she is showing signs of mental instability. She once forgot to switch off the mobile and I could hear her screaming at the son who had perhaps soiled his pants. Can I not have a moment of relaxation? She had asked. Didn’t I just take you to the rest room? Why didn’t you relieve yourself then? Are you a dog – she had screamed. This was hardly the person she was a few years back. I really wish to be of help. How do I do it without compromising on my self respect??