(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — An elderly couple who recently celebrated 20 years of marriage in a humble marital abode in Quarry, Montego Bay, is now desperate to evacuate the ramshackle, one-bedroom dwelling which the two say deteriorated faster than they could keep up with a series of unfortunate setbacks.
Radcliffe Galloway, 73, and his wife Miriam Galloway, 64, told the Jamaica Observer that their standard of living, including the board structure with its sagging floorboards and caving zinc roof has taken a toll on their level of happiness and wellbeing.
To make matters worse, Radcliffe said his wife suffered a stroke five years ago that left one side of her body paralysed, leaving him to pick up the slack, having to labour at odd jobs to support both, as well as being his wife’s only caregiver.
“Is me alone take care of her. If mi get a day’s work mi have fi get up and make sure mi prepare food fi keep her until I return because she cyah manage the stove. And then mi set a day when mi do some washing and then on Sundays we go church. That’s it. I don’t have a neighbour or anybody fi watch her, so I don’t really put the strain on anybody otherwise.
“She used to do domestic work and then she get the stroke. But because of her sickness now, I have to just fall back and pay her all the attention. She cyah do nothing more than just eat food and mi still have fi help her to the bathroom.”
It was evident that the elderly man’s stamina, unlike the house, had remained miraculously steadfast.
“I’m very physical, and that’s what I am glad about. Mi still climb tree and if mi get a day’s work mi can make a little money and that keep us going.
“At times I will go out and do a one day’s work, like likkle painting or mixing. Anything I can manage, mi do it. We have to make it work because there is no other source. So you can understand the strain that is on my shoulder.”
Radcliffe admitted that although he is still able-bodied, the mental strain that comes with living under such poor conditions has begun to affect his physical health.
“Because a di stress mi have a constant wheezing on mi stomach that cause mi not to sleep at night. I was thinking that it was asthma but when I go to the doctor him say is not asthma, is di stress. So even though that shouldn’t be at my age now, that’s how it is and it’s been giving me a plague of stress.
This, he said, was exacerbated by a bad fall he had recently that broke his hip and from which he still suffers pain.
“Even sometime when mi a work, it pain mi, but mi still have fi do what I can do because we don’t have anybody else.”
The couple told the Sunday Observer that they tried to have children, but that three pregnancies that Miriam had in her mid to late thirties all ended in miscarriages.
“Mi get pregnant three times and lose dem. I was 35 years old when we tried the first time, but mi lose that one. Then we tried two more times after but we end up lose them too,” Miriam stated.
Sharing that she wished she had children who could help her now in her old age, Miriam said that instead, she helped raise her nieces and nephews, who unfortunately did not stick around.
“Mi love children enuh. Me grow mi niece and mi nephew. But dem nuh business wid me nuh more.”
Radcliffe also expressed his regret at not having any children.
“Mi did cut up over it, especially knowing that me never have any [children] otherwise and then she now a di same ting.”
The couple admitted that when they got married, they were hesitant, seeing that they were still living in the house. However they decided to go ahead with the wedding for religious reasons and with the intention of eventually building a concrete structure.
“We went ahead with the wedding thinking that things would be better, with me and she putting together. To be frank, after we got together for some good years the pastor encouraged us to get married. I was refusing to get married because of our living condition. Even though it was a one room, at the time we were thinking that as time, goes we could evacuate.
However, their desire to build as a couple was further thwarted by a matter before the court regarding the land they live on, as well as Miriam’s sudden illness. That, coupled with the fact that they were both getting old.
“Di likkle money weh mi did accumulate all this way, mi have fi spend it in courthouse fi secure a piece a land. Di neighbours both ways keep fighting mi fi di likkle land,” Radcliffe said.
“But mi still do whatever likkle mi can do. I’m not 100 per cent because really my profession was chef. And giving some good years as a chef, I didn’t really make any dollars fi last we. So that now change mi mind and mi decide fi do likkle buy and sell, and then mi get another upset with that. So because a dat now, it put mi back to the construction. I would be the labourer that mixes a likkle cement and those things. That was how mi could help myself. Di few men that I could get a link wid, dem pass away. Then comes her sickness now.”
Radcliffe said that at the time, he noticed a difference in his wife’s gait, and insisted that she visit the doctor.
“I noticed that her movements change. It never look normal to me. Mi tell her say something wrong wid her. Taking her to the clinic that day now, the stroke came on.
He said he managed to scrape together what he could to cover his wife’s medical expenses. He said that his wife’s condition requires her to take a myriad of medications which takes a toll on their already empty pockets.
“When I get prescription for her, is at least 10 things on it, sometimes the most I can buy is seven, and then some source mi put together and get di other three at the private, whatever I don’t get at the government institutions. That’s how it goes.”
In the mean time, the couple survives on monthly support of $3,000 from the PATH programme as well as their local church.
“The church give me a likkle $1,000 weekly and give she also $1,000 weekly.”
Radcliffe further explained that during the dire straits of his wife’s illness, he had to stay home to look after her and therefore could not seek employment. However, his old age has not worked in his favour.
“Mi make few attempt, but dem say according to mi age, nobody want to employ me. Mi have fi just devote to her yah now. Di last time mi check fi get a work was when some census business was going on and mi go fill out form. But after dem hear mi age dem say there is no work for my age. Mi nuh really go out looking anymore.”
The devoted husband further explained that he and his wife worked menial jobs that did not turn over a liveable pension, further thwarting their hopes of building a proper home.
“I worked at a few hotels and so far make some demands, and most of di places dat mi work, dem say it didn’t turn over. Mi spend two years and some months at Cornwall Regional Hospital and is only there I get a likkle lump sum. Dem say according to the time I was there for and the wages I was getting at the time, it didn’t come up to anything to pay mi a monthly pension. So dem give me a likkle lump sum.”
Meanwhile, local charity, Sara’s Children will be assisting the couple with a new home, now under construction in the same community.
“We are trying to put things together in a likkle better way but chru [because of] financial problems, we couldn’t make it. But now we are getting a likkle help to build on a different piece of land.
He admitted, frankly, that he was not happy with their living situation.
“With me now, the happiness is not there to be frank, according to the surrounding conditions. If mi did happy probably I could expect to live on. Now I’m 73 and I’m not losing any strength with this kind of condition. Mi still can do hard work, and life is there, what else.”
However, Radcliffe’s ‘plague of stress’ and a wounded hip have not stopped the devoted husband from taking care of his partially paralysed wife.
“It could be me that in her condition so more or less mi wouldn’t like something like that befall me and gone leave mi. So that’s why mi stick to her. It rough but we have to just take it a day at a time. It rough enuh but mi have fi just continue and keep on, and ask God to give us the strength.”
Miriam, on the other hand, said she was in good spirits about the new home and praised her husband for all his hard work.
“Is a good husband mi have. “Mi doctor tell me say mi not to quarrel with him because mi can get another stroke, and he is a good man.
“A nuff people always a wonder how we survive but is only God help wi fi survive,” Miriam stated.