Today I bumped into my neighbour, Bobby. Bobby is 85, and has recently had to confine his wife, Lille, to a nursing home. Her behavior started changing towards the middle of last year, and she started to have angry bursts and sullen moods. It got uncontrollable by the end of the year and she had to be hospitalized and then confined to a home.
The change was all the more shocking as she is an English teacher, she was actually my teacher at school many years ago, preparing students for Cambridge exams until a year ago, and completing crossword puzzles in record time to keep the Alzheimer demon at bay. Fat lot of good it did her!
All this has of course taken its toll on Bobby, a well known local writer who has published books on local history, short stories, poetry in English and Spanish, and who visits her faithfully every day in the afternoon, accompanied by their daughter. He still dresses with care and precision, but the spring has gone out of his step. He walks their little dachshund, Manola, with a heavy tread that was not visible before.
Its a sad story, but what really got me thinking was the difference between men and women in similar circumstances.
I guess I was really thinking more about being widowed than having your spouse hospitalized or confined, which must be terribly stressful, but what really struck me was the difference between widowed or similarly affected men and women. Putting aside the "Merry Widow" act, it really looks as if women are more able to cope with change of circumstances than men. Unless the husband has been an extremely dominant character, and the wife very submissive, which can leave the widow feeling very helpless and lost, the norm seems to be a better adjustment to life after the bereavement for females.
Is it the nesting force, so strong in (most) women which makes us so adaptable? Are we really more pragmatic at heart than we seem? The ability to make a home out of whatever place we're stuck in, and to make do with the whatever we have at hand would appear to be the key to our adaptability. Multitaskers as usual.
I'd love to hear other opinions, probably more informed than mine.