The true definition of caring for one another – A couple’s story of love and disability

Walking through a small door in a tiny alleyway in the village of Zejtun one finds Mario and Therese, a lovely couple in their 50s who have been together for over 17 years. Mario tells of how much patience he has with Therese, whilst she laughs and starts telling me how much she takes care of him.

Mario and Therese are still very much in love after all these years perhaps because they both rely on one another in different ways. Mario is completely blind and has been so since a young age, whilst Therese has intellectual difficulties and can only see from one eye.

Despite their difficulties, the couple lives a completely independent life relying on each other to get things done. Since Mario cannot see Therese guides him and performs the daily tasks such as cooking and cleaning, to the best of her ability. On the other hand, Mario takes care of all the day-to-day household duties like bills as well as watching out for Therese’s health since she suffers from diabetes.

Photos James Caruana

The couple live in less than ideal conditions, with only two tiny rooms to call home. At the moment they are in the process of fixing up their small habitat with the help of many generous people.

One person in particular who has known the couple for over 15 years is Joan Agius (above), vice-mayor of the Zejtun Local Council. As a councillor of Zejtun Joan got to know the couple and found out what lovely people they are. Since then she has seen to whatever needs they may have, spends time with them, is helping with the refurbishment of their place and even takes them on weekend breaks.

Therese also mentions how several neighbours look out for them, bringing them food.

Unfortunately, their financial circumstances were exacerbated when a thief robbed them of all their savings.

A few months ago Mario and Therese were robbed by a man claiming to be from the electricity company there to take their meter reading. Mario already found this suspicious as he recalled that he had a smart meter and readings were taken automatically.

The robber insisted that they owed the company €50 and that if it was not paid their electricity would be cut-off. At this point Mario was worried so he went to get the money to pay him from a box where all their savings where kept. After he gave him the money, the man opened up the box and took all their money. Mario realised what had happened when he heard the box snap shut.

Mario went to check if the money was still in the box but by the time he confirmed what had happened the man had already made a run for it. The couple started crying and shouting for help but it was too late, the man had made away with €3,050.

 

Since this story appeared on the media there have been several people who have come forward to help the couple. A benefactor from Gozo donated all the money that was stolen, whilst other people donated their services to help renovate their home.

So far they have had their walls plastered and painted, and a security system installed. They should be having a new toilet installed soon and with some money donated, even a new kitchen. They even found assistance from the Community Chest Fund who donated a table and a wardrobe.

Before the security system was installed people used to knock on the couple’s door in the dead of the night, just to “scare us” as Mario recalls. He insists they were not children but adults.

To help keep the house clean, Mario and Therese used to employ cleaners with their own money, however as Mario says with despair they all took advantage of their disabilities and never cleaned properly.

Mario and Therese fondly recall of the time they met when they were both residents in one of Fr Ang Seychell’s homes. Mario says he had no intention of getting together with Therese at the time, especially because Therese left the home before him. Three years later Mario went to live back in his home in Zejtun and thought “I wonder whatever happened to Therese.”

Mario then asked around as to where Therese was staying and once he found out he started visiting her every day. By this point, Therese fell in love with Mario so she asked him to move in with him. Mario sought advice from his brother who told him that it would be nice for him to have company. They then took the decision to move in together.

This was the first time Therese had a stable family home saying that her mother had abandoned her when she was a child. Mario also adds that her missing eye, which is currently replaced with a glass one was probably caused by some sort of trauma Therese has no recollection of what happened to her eye. Unfortunately, as a result of her past, Therese has suffered from depression but says “despite everything I am still doing well.”

Today Therese is a happy, joyful person showing me all her clothes and telling me how she likes taking care of the way she looks. She even shows me one of her dresses which says “Don’t worry, be happy” which she tells me she will wear to the party Joan will help them host once their house is fixed up. She also spends time telling me a list of all the dishes she can cook, which she is very proud of. 

Mario and Therese spend their days at a centre for blind people and have recently started going to Dar Il-Kaptan. In the evenings they go to the village square to chat and meet people. Both of them have a passion for music especially 80s classics, which they spend most of the day listening to. Mario also receives a pen drive filled with Maltese romance novels every few day which he enjoys listening to.

After several hours chatting away to this lovely couple I make my way out and Therese comes up to me and gives me a big hug and a kiss on my cheek. She thanks me several times for having visited whilst Mario gives me a tap on my back. So much adversity, yet so much courage, Mario and Therese are the true definitions of love and patience that every couple should aspire to.

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