Masiji had a fall over two weeks ago. I took her to the hospital immediately (me being good) where an x-ray revealed that her ankle, though badly swollen, was only sprained, not fractured. After a couple of days of tender loving care (me good again), with wheelchair rides to the bathroom, night-time vigils and all meals served in bed, I decided it was time for a little tough love.
Knowing that bedsores – to say nothing of pulmonary embolisms – are common problems for elderly patients who have fallen and become immobile, I insisted that Masiji get up and move. Every day, ignoring her protests, I hauled her to her feet and forced her to walk a few shuffling steps. I made her use the walker rather than the wheelchair. I hinted that very soon we would discontinue the night nurse and expect her to get to the bathroom on her own.
She was equally insistent that moving was impossible. The pain, she said, was unbearable. I had no idea. She was not a complainer by nature. She wanted to get up and move. She hated being dependent. but she was in agony. I had no idea.
The trouble is that Masiji is most certainly a complainer by nature. By profession. By avocation. It is her passion in life. There is literally nothing she cannot find to complain about. It’s too cold. It’s too hot. The fan goes too fast. The fan doesn’t work. There’s too much salt in the sabzi. The dal is tasteless. The dalia is too watery. The halva has too much oil. Nobody calls. Everyone arrives at the same time. Nobody ever takes her anywhere. It’s so tiring when she goes out.
Forgive me if I didn’t take her complaining about the unbearable pain in her ankle seriously. I didn’t. I know my Masiji. So when she protested that she couldn’t possibly put any weight on her injured foot, I nodded sympathetically, all the while insisting, implacable me, that she get up and do just that. Day after day.
Then finally, two weeks into this saga, I took an objective look at that ankle. It was still swollen, 16 days after the accident. I called a friend who happens to be an orthopedic surgeon and asked him to make a house call. He took one look and said it was fractured. Not sprained. Fractured. She needed a cast and a whole lot more sympathy and I needed a large rock to crawl under.
Masiji, vindicated, was thrilled. (I imagine her gravestone reading: I TOLD YOU I WAS SICK.) There were many phone calls made.
I, exposed as both heartless and wrong, was chastened and distressed. My little core group of friends reassure me that I am still actually a good person but Masiji and Mummy look at me with wounded expressions and a vaguely hunted air, as if wondering what I might do next.
Fair point. I wonder too.