One man had a lot of time to think after hurting his back at work. His wife had to do everything for him, since he could not walk, eat or go to the bathroom unaided. When I visited him, he was lying straight on his back looking at the ceiling.
He looked quite worried and I thought that it was because he was concerned about his job, since he had already gone past his sick leave by a couple of weeks. I was wrong; his main concern was not financial.
“I would like to live to a ripe old age, but only if I die before my wife,” he told me and since his declaration came out of the blue, I demanded an explanation.
His concern was very simple: Who would look after him when he is completely incapacitated in old age? I told him that he had three children to take care of him. He laughed and said: “My children would pay a complete stranger to take care of me. They won’t have time to do it themselves.”
I thought it was unfair of him to prematurely accuse his children, but then I recalled his family background. The man feared that history would repeat itself and come back to haunt him. His own father died only a couple of years ago - a year after his mother had passed away. Being the only child, you would assume that he would ask his old man to move with him after his mother’s death. Instead, he employed a maid to look after him.
He never paused to think about his actions till he hurt his back. Why should his own children bother about an old, sick man when they could hire someone to do it for them? After all, he did just that to his own father. But if God could grant his wish and he dies before his wife....... wouldn’t that be a bit selfish? I put that question into words and added: “You would leave her behind to cope alone.”
“Who really cares? She would leave me alone if she dies first. Besides, women cope better than us - men - when it comes to live alone,” he chuckled.
Somehow his answer did not shock me. He did not care about his father during his last years and he was not going to show any concern about his wife’s last days without him either. He needed his wife, while he was incapacitated and that was the only thing that mattered to him.
Minutes later, his wife walked in the living room and we changed the subject. She looked radiant; happy but oblivious about what her husband and I had been discussing seconds before her entry. I don’t think he would ever talk about it to her. It was part of him that she had no business to know. He kept that secret from her though he shared his thoughts with me. Strange, isn’t it?
I guess, with some men, it is the male camaraderie. To him, I happened to be there with him when he was looking for an opportunity to put into words something he could not do with his own wife. I mentioned this to my wife and as a woman, she could not understand it.
Men, she said, were all the same! They are just cowards when it comes to dealing with any problem. I was not offended by her summation. To me, the man would not know how to live alone without his wife. That is not cowardice, but plain fear!

n    The writer is an Oman-based writer. This article has been reproduced from the Khaleej Times.