I find it interesting how things work out, and the things that come back to you through seemingly random events. A few days ago I was preparing to take a picture of my new favourite soup recipe for this blog, when Daddyken (excitedly) suggested that we build a brick wall on the weekend (he’s swapped his corporate job for a gardeners’ one).
I said What a great idea! Let’s do it! – not in a sarcastic tone but an actual excited voice, and even with an actual excited attitude. And that really confused me, because as you may have noticed, there’s nowhere on my blog where I’ve mentioned anything remotely akin to reveling in the delights of building any physical…non-food stuff. So after Daddyken drove off to buy cement – probably so I couldn’t change my mind, I sat down to work through my confusion. And then I remembered that wall.
On Day 1 Daddyken came in from the back yard holding his head, sat down on the lounge and said his head hurt. I told him to have a lie down. I looked up as he stood up and I saw all 182 cm of him fall to the floor. He got up and fell again and got up and then fell again so I rushed to him and pulled him up. Saliva was running down from the left side of his mouth so I gave him a tissue and told him there was saliva down his face. He reached with his right hand to wipe it but he missed the spot and missed again and missed again and then I wiped it for him.
On Day 14 I walked out of the hospital lift with our baby Panda to the neurological ward. A nurse was standing next to a wheel chair at the entrance to the ward, and in that chair sat a tall shrunken man. His body leant awkwardly to the left and a cushion was wedged between that left side and the arm rest. His white hospital gown hung limply and there was a trickle mark on the gown from where the saliva from the left side of his mouth had dribbled down. He shifted when he saw us and I saw the left arm fall and dangle by the side of the wheel chair. He saw my eyes move with it. His right hand reached over for the left one and pulled the arm with the clenched fingers up where it sat uncomfortably at an unnatural angle on his lap. He looked up as we approached and I looked into his frightened eyes.
Daddyken’s stroke came about because there was a blood clot in his heart. His heart pumped the clot up, pushed and pumped it again and again until it wedged itself within his brain.
Before Day 1, we were the ones who did things, fixed things and got stuff done. We knew what we were doing, where we were going and how we were going to get there. We’d built our wall and we were excited.
But each pump sent a cannonball careering towards our wall. Each cannonball attacked with intent. Each and every one pounded against it. Relentlessly. And in the silence of a dark summer’s day within the dim cold greyness of the hospital, I stood at the edge of our wall and turned around with our newborn Panda in my arms and saw that last cannonball thunder towards us. Our wall crumbled, it gave way, and collapsed entirely.
I scrambled to rebuild my wall, because with a wall we would be what we were. I cooked faster. I cleaned more. I filled my days with rebuilding. I made sure everything was ready for anything every day. No one, not friends nor family knew how to fix my wall but me. The nappy basket would be refilled as soon as a nappy was used, the rubbish would be out the door before it had time to fill. No heavy brick would be forgotten.
In the days, weeks and months after, my wall didn’t stay up and I was bewildered. I did his buttons and zippers and I chopped up his food. I drove him to his doctor’s appointments with Panda crying in the back. In our darkness we fought. Each and every day I kept on rebuilding.
Daddyken took a more junior position in his corporate job. He gave up the 6 months he had to go to complete his MBA. Each and every day I woke up I could see the wall made up haphazardly from the night before. It wasn’t fully up, but it vaguely resembled a wall and I would resolve to fix it properly today.
He slept every 2 to 3 hours to satisfy his hungry fatigue. We sold our investment house. His voice slurred when he was tired and sometimes I couldn’t understand what he said. As the minutes and hours of the day crawled on, I wanted to reinforce, but I found I was rebuilding.
The left arm swung like a pendulum as he limped. He couldn’t pick up, clean or care for Panda. The darkness was impassable. I would pick up the left hand and position it next to his right hand in a cradle position and gently place Panda there. I was scared that he would drop her.
As the years wore vaguely on, my need to rebuild lessened. The darkness was no longer at the forefront, but it still trailed me for a long, long time. I don’t remember the last time I went to fix my wall, I don’t know what state it was in when I last saw it and I don’t remember seeing a fully built wall.
This weekend Panda, Soccer Boy, Daddyken and I built our wall. Afterwards, as I sat close to it playing Transformer battles with Soccer Boy (I was the baddie again), I surprised myself by shedding a few quiet tears. Oh, Mummy’s just yawned Not for me, but for the Sally who lived through the dark time she thought would never end.