Sunday, January 10, 2010

Don't read this if you want cheering up

We took my 83-year-old uncle to hospital today ready for his complete knee replacement op tomorrow. I've told you about my uncle before: the guest list for his 80th birthday celebration was completely female. I tease him about his widows, one of whom was going to take him today but she was anxious about driving in what could have become nasty conditions so we took him instead.

The last time my uncle and I were in a car together on this route, we were returning from the hospital after my mother had died.

That's very nearly 38 years ago.

I was in my first year at university and was preparing for the start of the Spring term. I hadn't long gone to bed when I heard a noise in the bathroom, which was next to my bedroom. I got up and found my mother lying by the sink. I could see something on the floor by her mouth. My grandmother got there the same time as me and straightaway she said, 'Get dressed. Go and phone the doctor.' Then she bent over my mother, saying, 'Margaret, Margaret.'

We didn't have a phone so I had to run down the road to the kiosk outside the Post Office. The doctor (in those days night calls went straight to your own doctor) asked what had happened; I said I didn't know, but my mother was lying on the floor, 'like she's had a fit or something.'

From that description the doctor had the wit to call for an ambulance and I don't really recall much of the rest of the night.

The next morning my best friend came round and my great-aunt got us polishing brass (my grandmother had a large collection) and old silver forks when we ran out of dirty brass. When my uncle got home from the hospital, he said that my mother had had a seizure and that the doctors were doing their best. For some reason I couldn't remember the word 'seizure' and when local shopkeepers and friends asked me I said, 'She had a ... thing,' and they looked at me, sorrowfully.

I kept waiting for someone to say, 'Don't worry; it'll be all right.' But no-one did. Suddenly I was grown-up and nobody would lie to me.

My mother was in hospital and conscious but confused. The last thing she said to me was, ' You smell nice. You look like Peter.'

On our way back home from visiting her that evening we were involved in a car crash when a lorry came into the side of us. As a result the girl who was driving - she was my cousin's girlfriend - lost an eye, my grandmother sustained a broken leg, my great-aunt died - and I had a few scratches on my forehead.
The strange thing was that when we'd got into the car, leaving the hospital, I had climbed in behind the driver. My grandmother, as eldest sister, automatically took the front seat and then said to me, 'no, don't sit there. Let Auntie Gay sit there so the car's balanced.' My gran and Auntie Gay were both large ladies and my gran had this, what could be seen as a silly, idea that having two heavyweights on one side would make the car unsteady. But it saved my life. Or condemned Auntie Gay to death. Maybe if I'd been sitting there my smaller frame would have prevented too much damage. Who knows?
The day after we'd been in the crash the doctors operated on my mother to try and remove some of the blood still in her brain. While she was in the operating theatre she had another massive haemorrhage. She never regained consciousness.

My uncle and I spent the night after her operation in one of the small off-corridor sitting areas, waiting. At about dawn my uncle came to me and said, 'Mum's gone.'

Auntie Gay was resuscitated at the scene of the crash by a doctor who happened to be passing. She lived for a few weeks but was unconscious throughout.

I think those were the first bricks in the wall.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear - thats all quite dreadful and thankfully a long time ago.

Dragonstar said...

Oh Liz - so long ago, and it never loses its clarity. My mum had a chest infection after flu, and had to go into hospital. she was in the ambulance when she realised she didn't have a clean hankie (this was in 1959) I ran in to fetch one for her, and then off she went. I never said goodbye, and I never saw her alive again. These things you never ever forget.

Leslie: said...

Tragedies like these remain crystal clear in our subconscious and every once in a while they rear their ugly heads! I have to purposefully NOT think about some things or else I would never function. My thoughts are with you today as you remember. Sending hugs, too.

Lia said...

Oh Liz time may pass but we never quite get over the loss of our parents and other family members and you were so young as well. Must have been tough on you.
I do hope your Uncle's op goes well for him.
Much love

CherryPie said...

Reading this yes it is depressing. But the swapping thing in the car there was a reason for that and you shouldn't feel guilty about it.

Everything happens for a reason.

CalumCarr said...

Hard times.

I remember too.

Liz said...

A very long time ago, mutley. Gosh, I must be old!!

How dreadful for you, dragonstar.

I can imagine some of your memories are so painful, leslie.

I must phone the hospital soon, lia, to check up on Uncle.

I'm sure you're right, cherrypie.

Yes, we all have difficult memories stored away, calum.

sally in norfolk said...

some things you learn to live with but that does not mean you ever forget them :-)

jay said...

Oh, gosh, what a horrible time to live through. To have the car crash on the way home from the hospital must have been just horrific. No wonder it's all so clear in your memory still.


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