‘Faith, Hope and Love’ Part 21
“Hello, Marian,” said Julia, a nurse who was becoming familiar with my routines. “He’s doing well today. We don’t usually allow two visitors at once, but I’ll see if it’s all right.” She tiptoed quietly ahead of me and came up nodding gently, “Yes, that’s fine…” She indicated a second chair by Arthur’s bed, and it was only then I realized a young man was sitting opposite with his head bent forward, the back of his neck exposed. He looked collapsed in on himself, but perhaps he was only resting. I went up and put my arm out over his shoulder.
“Hello,” I whispered, looking down at the seated figure. He startled awake, his eyes widening. I recognized his features, unmistakably those of his father, pale and angular. A face with the same dark eyes, a familiar, startled grin…
“Yes,” he coughed. “Ah, yes, I’m James, Jamie.” he stumbled, caught out.
“Your father has talked about you often.” I soothed. As I sat, I let the silence hold us both.
We blurted together, “Your father–” “Dad–”
“I was trying – trying to telephone. I had something I needed to tell him, but there was no reply. The voicemail was full and I knew something was wrong. I just knew. I got the bus up. He wasn’t home, so eventually I started knocking on doors. A neighbour opposite told me that he’d been taken to hospital. I’ve been here a couple of hours…”
“Well, it is wonderful to meet you at last.” I considered. “If you need a place to stay for a while, I live next door to your dad…” I let the suggestion rest.
“You wouldn’t mind?” The tilt of his voice, the way it floated and then broke on the last syllable, threatened tears. I patted his knee.
“I would be delighted.” So easily, we fell into each other’s company, and by the time we left the hospital, it almost felt as if I’d known him for years. I could anticipate his moves, which surprised him, and delighted me.
“Could I stay, maybe, until I know more about….?”
“Yes, of course.” Perhaps I was too willing, too eager to please. But this young man had come a long way, and it would be foolish to be stand-offish.
“You can have the spare room. Look, we’d better get a move on, because Elaine – my daughter – will be home soon. Her father – my husband – was killed – two years ago.”
That hit me with a pang. Time was passing, life was moving on without my husband and my feelings could go either way. Grief, to be leaving him behind, relief to be living past the nightmare of loss, happiness to find something new to think about, new people to love. Mixed up emotions, threatening to paralyse or break out when I least expected.
The car skidded as my thoughts galloped away, and I had to slow, stop by the side of the road – quick! – before my vision was blinded by useless tears, by shaking anger and sorrow. Quick! I pulled up behind a wide delivery van, turned off the ignition and sat gazing sightlessly out of the window as a huge pain in my stomach threatened. I forgot the boy sitting quietly at my side, and tears just appeared from no-where and coursed down my cheeks as I clutched my sides, rocking painfully back and forth. God, it was so embarrassing, but I could not stop the tremors of emotion, the clench of my throat.
James handed me a handkerchief from his pocket, which I blew into gratefully. Crumpled cloth hankies, warm and slightly stained, always feel reassuring. Knowing that James understood, I stopped crying as suddenly as I had started. Calm again, I wiped my face, cleaned the salt from my glasses, and signalled to re-join the traffic.
In the companionable silence that followed, I recalled that James had something to tell his dad.