Sometime before going on the cruise, Bob was experiencing some issues at the new shared house. At first, on the surface, all was well. There were barbecues in the summer and the residents were invited to be guests at a party for one of the staff members. Other days out were suggested, but one of the residents was notorious for agreeing to join in and then declining to go, so nothing else took place. The weekly shopping excursions to the supermarket continued as usual.
The problems with the building began with an occasional leak from the ceiling; the worst was in the bathroom, when the floor became flooded. Then there was a leak coming through the light fitting on the landing for which I was called out, instead of the staff. The plumbing in the bathroom was also an ongoing problem.
Then there were the test fire drills and one serious drill, when all the residents had to go outside in the middle of the night. Bob was very indignant!
The men who shared Bob’s house had their problems too. One of them was a young man, in his early twenties, who enjoyed going out drinking. He also said to my son, in confidence, of course, that he was open to taking any drugs which were on offer. Another was almost fifty and tee-total now, after being off the drink for many years. He was quite grumpy with my son and regularly moaned about Bob not pulling his weight in the house, even when he did the dishes regularly. The third housemate was also middle-aged and an alcoholic; still drinking, when the staff had gone home in the evening. He was also a chain smoker, or might have been if his supply of cigarettes was not locked up in a tin box in the safe. He was only allowed one cigarette per hour. This man was unfortunate because he never had visitors. I asked him one day, if he had any relatives. He said he had a mother but he did not know where she was. I was appalled and astounded. I could not believe that he had not been in touch with his mother for many years.
I asked her name and the town in which she lived and had no trouble in locating her phone number, and gave it to her son, who rang her immediately. They began seeing each other at the weekends, and I was very happy about that.
The party-going resident was very charming. He was all smiles when I was around, but his character changed, apparently, when alone with my son. He could be quite devious. He would also play his music very loudly with his bedroom window open wide. His room happened to be close to the next-door neighbour’s bedroom, who, apparently, did not enjoy popular music, especially during the early hours of the morning!
Most days the man from next door would ring the doorbell of the shared house, and it was usually Bob who answered the door- to a tirade of abuse! When I was alerted to this, I told my son to refrain from opening the door. This was, however, not always possible, and the neighbour managed to catch him out several more times.
The house was supposed to be staffed from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., but this did not always happen due to staff shortages. The usual scenario was that one member of staff was present from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. I was unhappy about this, as it meant that the young lad could bring in unknown visitors, who drank with him and occasionally slept it off overnight in the lounge. The staff did not seem to know what was going on at all.
I was also alarmed when women’s underwear was discovered in the washing machine. It turned out that the washing machine in the women’s house, which was located a few blocks along, had broken down, so some of the women had been using the men’s washer. I’d had the wrong idea about it entirely!
Bob was also disturbed by some of the comments which were made in the house. The tee-total alcoholic was complaining to a staff member one day that he should not be in the house ‘with all those mad people’. Bob objected to the comment, which, I thought, showed that he was more aware than he had been previously, and was determined now to stand up for himself. Also, at a meeting with staff and psychiatric nurses, he expressed the desire to return home, but one of the nurses, who knew my situation as a widow, said that she thought that I might want to use him as a substitute husband!
Well, my son was really annoyed at that suggestion and said so. I was quite insulted, too, on hearing about it, and would have said something to her if I had been there.
One of the staff members was chatting to us one day, and Bob said again that he wanted to go home for good. She said that she hoped he wouldn’t be doing a midnight flit, which comment put the idea into his mind to do exactly that!
One night, around midnight, Bob was packing up all his belongings into a large black plastic sack, while I was waiting in the car parked right outside the house, listening to music playing quietly, as I thought. A small, elderly man, dressed in a dressing gown over pyjamas and wearing slippers, ran to my side of the car and banged hard on the windscreen with his fist.
“Turn that noise off!” he shouted. “I’m trying to sleep!”
All I could think of to say was, “You are a very nasty man!”
The banging continued relentlessly for some time.
I didn’t get out of the car, but locked it from the inside and waited for him to go. Eventually, Bob came out with his plastic sack and we drove home. I had begun to shiver at that point with shock, and did not recover from it for a couple of hours.