‘Faith, Hope and Love’ Part 23

Our slightly abrupt politeness – “Oh! Excuse me, sorry!”- gave way to more relaxed ease, while I reined in my habitual displays of affection. Though to me, in small gestures and standing in certain light, James was oddly recognizable, I had to remind myself constantly that he was still a stranger. He might glance quizzically in my direction, or stand over one hip while expounding on a topic, then ask, “How did you know what I was going to say?” and I would smile, “Well, because your dad….” until it became something of a joke between us.

Together we visited Arthur in the hospital, while Elaine preferred to keep her distance, burying herself in homework or staying out more often with friends. Whole days, she hardly came home and I missed the easy togetherness we had enjoyed. One afternoon, late into the second week of Arthur’s stay at the hospital, as James and I were sitting quietly at his bedside, Arthur sat up, snapped open his eyes, frowned and barked, “Where am I?” He looked sharply at us, before his gaze slackened and he fell back sluggishly on the pillows banked up high behind his head. I leaned in, clasped his thin hand and whispered, “It’s okay darling, we are here with you,” but he shook my hand away crossly.

James said, “Dad,” attempting to explain, “Hello, it’s Jamie.”

“Who are you?” The words stopped us dead, as a chill of anxiety curled around my chest, but James kept his voice neutral and calm.

“I’m James, your son, and this is Marian, your neighbour.”

“Oh. Thank you.” His last words faded to a mumble as Arthur drifted off to sleep again. James and I tiptoed silently to the nurses’ station.

“Ah, has Mr. Thompson been…medicated, at all?” I tried.

“No, nothing unusual, why?” queried the nurse, busy checking something on a clipboard and absent-mindedly tucking a curl behind her ear.

“He seems confused today, that’s all”

“Let’s check, shall we?” We trooped rather self-consciously back to his bedside where the nurse looked through his charts, took his pulse, peered over him and frowned.

“He does seem dozier than usual…” she said, “I’ll get the duty doctor to take a look at him.” Ten minutes after she paged, a hurrying woman was skirting round the bed, checking vital signs.

“Yes, um,” She muttered, flipping up the bed charts…

“Mr. Thompson is due to be released soon?” She raised a questioning gaze.

“Is he well enough to go home? He didn’t seem to recognize us, just now.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, he was frowning and asking us who we were. He seemed angry.”

“Cardiac patients often have trauma to deal with afterwards, but he seems all right just now. I’ll make a note to review his medication…” She looked thoughtful as she scribbled notes on the clipboard.

My mind was spinning, but Jamie seemed quite relaxed, and offered to fetch two cups of tea from the canteen. Yes, I agreed vaguely. As he wandered away, I sat thoughtful.

Would Arthur be better at home? I cast my gaze over him, noting that he had grown thinner, almost gaunt. He seemed to spend a lot of time sleeping. Given the chance, Arthur would probably recover more quickly in familiar surroundings. Doubt quivered around the edges of easy reassurances about that, and I was wary. Yet, while he waited here, his recovery seemed to slip.

When James and I went in the next day, the doctor on duty summoned us into the room at the top of the ward. “Mr. Thompson is scheduled to leave hospital in about, um, perhaps a week… Assuming his condition continues to improve. We have adjusted his medication.  Unfortunately, there seems to have been a small setback. Mr. Thompson has had a small seizure, a TIA, which confuses the picture, somewhat. We hope that matters resolve today, but these things can be unpredictable.”

With a polite nod, we returned to Arthur’s bedside. A warm cup of tea with a straw in it was perched optimistically on the bedside cabinet.  Arthur was sitting up in bed, gazing out the window. A jolt of pure delight coursed through me. “Hello, Arthur, how are you today?” I asked.

“I’m fine, thank you…ah, Mary.” He recognized James coming up behind me, and grinned.

“Hi, Dad?” James tried to keep his voice level, but he was excited. He leant in and gave his dad a kiss, brushing a pale, gaunt cheek with his lips. “It’s lovely to see you,” he whispered. Arthur nodded in reply, smiling and pleased to recognize his boy. “Ah, yes, come and sit here beside me,” he said confidingly, “Come and sit…”

So I slipped away to the canteen. From a seat in the window I could look out at clumps of flowers blowing frantically in spring breezes, the stems of daffodils and tulips carelessly left to bend and droop. Hospitals are supposed to enliven, repair and restore, but so often they become refuges for those with no-where to go. Arthur could be discharged soon, but would he want to be looked after?

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