The Worst Illness

Irina Echarry

Photo: Caridad

On Sunday afternoon we saw a dog wandering around in such a way that it made us suspect that it was lost.  I called it several times so that it would get out of the middle of the street, which it did, and then it again started looking for someone who it couldn’t find.

Suddenly, as it crossed the street with me behind, an old man appeared from out of nowhere saying to the little dog, “Come on girl.”

Happy for the dog, I said: “It’s a good thing you’re the owner.  I thought your dog was lost.”

The man then replied, “The one who’s is lost is me.”

It took some effort to figure out where the old man lived, since all he did was constantly repeat that he couldn’t go back to his house because there was someone abusive there.  Continuing to speak to him, he finally gave us his address, which suddenly sparked my mother’s memory of his face.

“Aren’t you Yamile’s father?” she asked.

“Yes, but I don’t want to go back home,” he responded.

Nonetheless, we decided to take him there, because the man had some catheters hanging out and it was already starting to get dark outside.

When we got to the first floor of his building he asked to please not make him go up. We also told the old man that he could stay downstairs if he wanted, but we advised the brother-in-law (who’s also elderly) who was already coming down to get him.  He blurted out his frustration: “I can’t put up with this guy anymore.  He’s ducking out of the house every ten seconds.”

My mother thinks we did the right thing by taking him home, but in my mind there lingered one concern: What if that guy really was being abusive?  Later I thought about how dementia is such that it carries people down such dark roads.

But there’s something sadder.

Yamile left Cuba many years ago and later she sent for her mother.  Her two siblings have also left the country.  Those two old men live up there on their own, one taking care of the other, though both of them are sick.

Emigration, though an often used means of solving economic problems, has brought serious consequences for Cuban families.  The separation of loved ones engenders loneliness, an illness that’s difficult to cure.


One thought on “The Worst Illness

  • Emmigration is not the root cause here.. this is an aging population and it is a growing explosion with so many classifciations of illness be it physical or dementia . Even with family within the same city/province/country, care and supervision needs are increasing of the at risk older adult. Some family do provide care and supervision. but many due to their personal work committments and family issues, are limited in what they can provide. I would be interested to know in Cuba, if there is a program to offer homemaker services to these individuals so that they can remain at home or an offering of day programs so that someone like this can have assistance with medical care, personal care and nutrition, as opposed to being placed in a formal care arrangement?

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