It’s nothing serious... Dad’s just not gonna be home for a while. No reason to worry. He’s gonna be fine.
But what if things had worked out worse?
There is a certain discomfort that comes with being in a bed that isn’t your own. Sleep came that night with flashes of Mum, as she pulled over to answer that first phone call, her face growing increasingly worried in the rear view mirror as she talked. How, when we got home, for a minute it was just the average Tuesday afternoon before the end of term, until without warning, she collapsed into tears. How she spent the next fifteen minutes making various phone calls; it seemed we’d be spending the night at Nonna’s and she’d be taking the day off work tomorrow. How all the while, I watched her from the bottom of the stairs, expressionless and was labelled ‘heartless’ and ‘insensitive’. Because in those first few hours, I didn’t care. I wanted to run away from the problem. Pretend it didn’t exist. In those first few hours, the world could’ve fallen around me and I would’ve been more interested in how I was going to get to school early the following day for soccer training.
The next day, after school, (which, yes, included soccer training) mum drove us to the hospital. I avoided eye contact, felt uncomfortable, wanted to run away and hide. Dad was the man who in second grade played tiggy with almost half the year level before school. The man who just recently bought a motorcycle and would (when my mum allowed it) take me for a ride. The man who’d wrestle me before bed. The man who made pretty much all the furniture in the house. The man I looked up to. I refused to let myself believe that that same man, who to me seemed able to take on the world and win, could be defeated by a few planks of wood leaning precariously against a wall, and the will of gravity.
Those holidays, every day we drove to the hospital, parked near the high school I was hoping to get into (I didn’t) and walked the remaining 200 metres. The hours we spent there were agonising- dark chocolate frogs, slightly under-salted chips, awkward walks around a labyrinth of identical halls with my sister, trying to go unnoticed despite how loud she made a point of being, the inflatable dinosaur near the elevators, the artificial lights, a feeling of claustrophobia. And the same awkwardness and discomfort that came with seeing dad, weak, going through some crisis I suppose must be common among hospital patients.
The day I was asked to fill up the jug of water was by far the worst of all the hospital visits. I said that I couldn’t be bothered, (after all 5 metres there and back is an exorbitant amount for any person to travel) and refused to move from where I was sitting. This time I got labelled ‘selfish’, and received various looks of disappointment and hurt. My parents never suspected that the reason, was that the man next to Dad, the one behind the curtain, currently watching TV, the volume considerately low, scared me. And by going to the sink, he’d be in full view. The one brief glimpse I got of him, consisted of a polite acknowledgement while trying to hide the horror I felt. Simply, the man lacked a nose. Instead his face was dented, not unlike my school water bottle that I had dropped on too many occasions.
Dad told us, the day he requested less meds, that that Tuesday, the last one of term, he had been planning on leaving work early, go home, maybe for a motorcycle ride or something, but decided to stay- not for long, just to finish a few things off.
Well they didn’t did they?
But they could’ve!
Just like you could lose your spot on the school soccer team if you don’t show up to training tomorrow morning.