Last summer, I hoped to find someone who would look after my ailing mother, and a friend of mine told me about a woman. She came, and we got into a conversation. Maria Ivanovna (that’s what we’ll call her) turned out to be an elderly woman. She amazed me when she said that she “sees her own self in each bedridden person and would like to be treated the same way she takes care for those who need her help.” Maria Ivanovna did not look like someone who was hard-up; she said her children provided her with everything, but she could not live without an occupation. She was so used to being responsible for someone that she could not live idly. Maria Ivanovna told me her story, and it made me weep.
“I have two children. I am the happy mother and grandmother of four grandchildren. That’s now. But I had to go through many troubles before I could hear the children laughing in my home.
“I got married at a very young age. My husband loved me so much, we were so happy, but we could not have children—that was the only thing that darkened our life. Finally, we resolved to adopt a child.
“It was in the 1970s. We headed for the orphanage in the suburbs. I was sure that I would somehow feel with my heart which baby should be ours, which one should be mine. We saw a lot of babies, but I felt nothing.
“We were about to leave when someone unexpectedly said there was one more baby, a girl born twenty days earlier. She was severely ill; the doctors said she would not live more than two or three days, and only a miracle could save her. In fact, she was like the “living dead”, as they put it. As I heard those words, that the baby was the living dead, something inside of me changed. I yelled, “Show me the baby!” They gave us the baby but did their best to dissuade us from adopting her. The little girl had a severe form of sepsis, her skin was blotched. I took the baby girl in my arms and cried. I felt it was our baby. The doctors would say to my husband, “Your wife is insane, you can’t take this child, she will die before you get home. There are many kids that are healthy. Choose anyone you like!” Then I said to my husband, “Take her in your arms. If you feel nothing, we will not adopt her!” He did and tears flowed from his eyes.
“We took the girl right away, without any documents, and dashed to the city through the snow (it was winter) to see the best doctor we knew. He said only the most potent antibiotic could save the girl, but it couldn’t be found, not in the pharmacy nor in the hospital. “If you are lucky enough to find the antibiotic and give it by injection for at least a month, you may possibly save the baby’s life,” the doctor said.
“We found the antibiotic. Each dose cost a fortune, but we bought as many doses as we could. I gave it to the girl every four hours, both day and night, for over a month. Three months later, we came back to the orphanage and they did not recognize her. They just could not believe she was that dying baby. We completed the legal formalities concerning the adoption and took the baby home.
“The girl was growing; we were pleased with her little victories, and a few years later we made up our mind to adopt another child.
“In the orphanage, we saw a boy who looked exactly like my husband. But his chest wall and legs were badly deformed, and we were told he would not be able to walk. Moreover, his little body bore numerous scars. His story was as follows: The boy was found lying in a box in the street, with was no one nearby. He was first taken to the police, then to the orphanage. He was afraid of men, panic would seize him every time saw a man, and that fear haunted him for a long time.
“The doctors again discouraged us from adopting him, suggested that we should instead choose a healthier baby. But I tried to imagine what could have happened to him he in the orphanage. I decided that I would adopt him, I would spare no effort to help him and make sure he could walk. Again, we signed the necessary documents and our long battle for his life began. We tried to treat him with massage, and I learnt how to administer it. We consulted a psychologist and speech pathologist. The chest wall was restoring to its normal anatomy, his legs were becoming stronger, and our little boy could take some steps at home at first and then outdoors. We were delighted by all his victories and refused to give up. There was only one problem that persisted—his fear of men caused by some dreadful memories. The fear abated two months before my husband tragically died.
“We hoped to adopt one more child. I knew there was a girl in the orphanage whose mother had brought her there and then left, but promised to come back. Many years passed, but she would neither come nor call. We were preparing the necessary documents and regularly visiting the child when her mother suddenly turned up. She had been abroad. Having earned some money, she took her daughter from the orphanage.
“After my husband died, I had to commit myself to hard work; I had to provide for the children, and I wanted to give them good education. It was not easy, but I was not alone—my children were with me, and they were the meaning of my life.”
I would like to note that Maria Ivanovna turned out to be a very good caregiver. She did a lot to help my mother, even more than she was supposed to do. For example, she used to buy tasty food for my mother in order to please her. Though she herself ate almost nothing during the day she was a great cook, and my mother even gained some weight.
Maria Ivanovna is no longer my mother’s caregiver, but she continues to come to our place from time to time to see her and always brings a load of fruits and sweets. The last time she came, she said she was going to start looking after one of her relatives. That woman had dementia, so it wouldn’t be easy. But she could not decline the request, because it may have been someone from above who was asking her to help.