Principal Skinner, the head teacher from The Simpsons – the one who’s constantly belittled and abused by his old witch of a mother – might’ve been based on one of the two main protagonists from last night’s Wonderland; Frederick, son of 80 year old Pauline.
Not that I’m calling Pauline an old witch, but my life, she’s certainly a handful. And she couldn’t say a nice word to Frederick. She continually berated him, nagged him and criticised everything he did, despite the fact that he stoically carried on doing his best for her.
If anyone gives out prizes for Most Patient Carer In The World, the top award should go to Frederick.
The two of them, mother and son, made for a somewhat odd spectacle between them. Frederick looks rather like a zany, eccentric/mad professor and Pauline is a compulsive hoarder. Though it wasn’t expressly vocalised in the film, I imagine she’s got some kind of mental disorder; nobody without ‘problems’ could be that mean-spirited and just plain odd.
In a documentary full of moments where I just wanted to yell at Frederick to leave his mother to it if she was going to continue to be so ungracious, by far one of the worst moments came when Pauline and her daughter were looking at a letter from Pauline’s deceased husband and father of her two children.
While Pauline happily shared the document and the memory with her daughter, when Frederick tried to pick it up, his mother had a complete hissy fit. He was made to feel like a complete outsider – and an unwelcome one at that.
That’s not to say there weren’t moments when I felt sorry for Pauline too; she’d been a concert grade pianist in her day and clearly, the fact that she no longer possessed the dexterity she once did pained her greatly. But does she really have to take it out on the son who – more than anyone else – does everything for her?
He dealt with unpaid bills, cleaning – a task that was, to say the least, Herculean in nature – and generally did everything humanly possible to keep Pauline well, and, though it never happened in this film, to make her happy.
I innately don’t like to be too disparaging about someone my senior, but frankly, Pauline is the kind of woman who one could easily see might drive her main carer to something unthinkably drastic. She was a constant trial and, again, apologies for the unkindness this implies, but she’s an ungrateful, obstinate and uncaring woman.
Unfortunately, being elderly doesn’t inherently bring grace, and I have to applaud Frederick for putting up with his mother day in day out. I was seething by the end of the programme, so how he copes with it year on year is a marvel.