He dropped his I-phone on Saturday night. He really loves that phone. Honestly, it has to be practically surgically removed every night. Anyway, something shifted in its innards and the SIM wouldn't work. So on Sunday, Roch prepared for a visit to the Orange shop in Richmond. In the past I wouldn't have dreamt of going with him. A phone shop, to report a fault, on a Sunday afternoon? I can think of a lot of places I'd rather be. I might have gone with him into Richmond, done some shopping and then met up with him after he had conducted his business. But on Sunday I didn't feel comfortable with him going alone. It is partly that he's slow and a bit shaky but it's more than that - he just seems more vulnerable to me now. He could probably have managed but I felt I should go with him. I asked him if he wanted me to come. He didn't say yes, but he didn't say no. He said "Come along if you like." I know it makes it easier, more comfortable for him, if he has company but I think maybe it's hard for him to come out and ask. He said he would be leaving in fifteen minutes, but after the fifteen minutes had passed he was busy, and when he was ready to leave, I wasn't because I had started to do something else (blog actually). So we we left later than he would have liked.
There were two assistants in the Orange shop, both busy with customers. We had to stand and the longer we stood, the harder it was for Roch. We had left the rollator in the car - he had his two sticks but we really should have thought to bring the rollator. (Not in the zone, Deirdre!) He wouldn't hear of me going to get it. As the minutes passed, I could see he was getting annoyed with the wait and I knew he was feeling frustrated and angry because he was realising that he wouldn't be able to stand for much longer. I pretended not to notice as he cursed under his breath (loud enough to be overheard), but I could feel myself tensing up when the swearing got worse. Well, I had to admit, it was annoying. I could understand his frustration. The two customers ahead of us were taking ages and at that point, nobody had even acknowledged our presence. I had asked him once or twice if he'd like me to ask for a chair - other people were also waiting and a number of customers had left, fed up with the long wait. Nobody else was sitting and there were no chairs to be seen. He was adamant that he didn't want a chair. I knew he didn't want to appear weak, or different or draw attention to himself. But I made the decision to ask anyway. So I did and he glared at me. The assistant brought a chair from the back and he sat down. We waited for a time again until eventually he was served and at that point I deemed it safe to leave him to it.
On the way home, he remarked on how ironic it was that because I had delayed him, he had been kept standing in the shop for so long. "If we'd been ten minutes earlier," he said, "We might have been there first." My first feeling was indignation, followed closely by a wave of self-righteousness. There I was, giving up a good part of my Sunday afternoon to stand with him in a bloody phone shop. Not only did I go with him, but through my intervention, he had been provided with a chair for part of the wait. Maybe he was right, maybe the delay had made a difference, but was there any need to say it out loud? Any need to make me feel bad? Well, yes, on reflection, he probably did feel a need to say it. Maybe (who knows?) he was punishing me a little for asking for the chair. Maybe saying it made him feel like he was more in control. Like nothing had changed and he hadn't really needed me at all. But you know what? I think I get where he's coming from. I had to think about it, but here's what I came up with. Okay, Roch's not someone who ever had to ask for help. Now he needs it more and more. When you rely on other people to help you carry out the tasks you need to do, you have to wait until they are ready to help and that's not always going to be when you want the thing done. I remember, as a teenager, when my mother wasn't well, she would ask us to do household chores. "In a minute," we'd say. We would do them, you didn't keep my mother waiting for long, but if we didn't do the thing immediately, soon we would hear the sound of the hoover or the clatter of dishes in the sink as she dragged herself out of bed to do thing herself. It never failed to irritate me because of course I was going to do it, and I usually did do it really quickly, but I get it now - she hated not being able to do it herself. Having to wait until we were ready really frustrated her.
So although Roch's remark annoyed me I think I see where he was coming from. Becoming dependent isn't easy for anyone but it's especially hard for Roch. He was always most comfortable in the role of helper. Gradually I'm beginning to realise the emotional and psychological challenges inherent in the role of carer. I don't want to be self-righteous. I'd like to be able to just do it. It's going to be a lot harder than I thought. Ambushed again.