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The car glissades off the road bucking and lunging across a frozen buckled verge unexpectedly stalling on a ridge of iron-hard mud only a whisker away from the pole…I can scarcely believe it, I’ve stopped, I’m unharmed, the car’s okay, and, because of the freezing conditions, not even stuck – as far as I know. My gods were with me. I’m shaking so much I can’t get the car into reverse let alone co-ordinate clutch and accelerator. Eventually I manage, and after some manoeuvring, dislodge the car from the ridge and gradually inch backward onto the lethally icy corner. I limp home at a snail’s pace overwhelmed by emotions. I creep into the house trying to avoid being heard or seen, but Ben finds me and engulfs me in a hug – it’s too much, I burst into tears. I mumble about the animals and scrabble around for my overalls.
“No mum, no! You don’t have to go out there it’s dark, it’s cold. Rob will do them. Hey, look at me…it’s not been a normal day, look at you- you’ve had it. The animals will be okay. You’re ill. It’s freezing. Hey mum, don’t.”
I look at him and feel overcome – my son, so concerned, so gentle, so caring and he doesn’t even know about the might have been accident, his love is breaking me up. “Pip, I know it seems stupid, but I want to. I think, just for a moment I need the space, the peace. Please. I’m not being difficult. I promise I’ll stop when Rob gets back. Are you coping with the New Year’s Eve meal? The goose, all the bits? The pudding?”
“Yes, everything’s fine. Not probably as you’d do it, but it’s just fine. Don’t worry. But please, don’t do too much out there. Come in soon, won’t you?” Reluctantly he lets me go.
I stumble out to the animals and, as I know they would, they calm me, ground me. They sense my anguish and even though it’s way past their normal feeding time, they don’t bawl and jostle, they don’t even demand. Instead they’re quiet, conciliatory; concerned liquid-treacle eyes follow my every movement, dew-dropped noses and rasping tongues tentatively nudging and exploring my hands, arms and hat. Gentle reassurance. I curl up on the straw where Robert finds me. In a couple of hours it’ll be time to welcome in the New Year!
The following few days passed in a haze of phone calls, journeys and doctor-nurse-hospital arrangements on behalf of my mother. Clamouring, pleading, demanding; questioning, challenging, probing. Eventually I was persuaded to take her to the main hospital in Plymouth in case the local cottage hospital could not provide all the treatment needed. Also, I was assured that return transport would be far quicker from there.
Her triage treatment in A&E was excellent and in a couple of hours we found she’d fractured her knee cap. From then on it was a nightmare. Treatment was to be ‘conservative’ – in other words nothing would be done, not even pain relief. Mobilise, I was told, get her moving (with a fractured knee cap? with nothing to help?). It was obvious they couldn’t wait to pass the problem back to her home, her GP and community services. If you’re old and demented you don’t stand a chance, even if yours is a ‘mechanical’ injury, time and money will not be wasted on you. After a seven hour wait for return transport we arrived back at her home at 9pm – my mother was past all reason – frightened, confused and irrationally furious at everything, including me.
So here we are, frustrated and banging our heads against several brick walls. Trying hard to find her some form of pain relief that won’t exacerbate her mental condition. Trying to get a response and hurry along the re-enablement team so we know how best to mobilise her without causing her more injury (but referrals, don’t you know, have to be processed through proper channels before a visit is allowed). Trying to encourage her to eat and drink (at the moment she won’t). Trying to explain to her what’s happened (she has no idea of why she hurts). I don’t know how she’s going to cope; her body’s fast becoming a random muddle of irrelevant, awkward bones. But I know I still see that spark of fighting spirit flashing in her eyes, and until that dies I will do everything I can.
I was falling gently into a misty drifting twilight world between sleep and wakefulness. Robert was already asleep; soft, warm-slow breaths on the back of my neck. A noise startled, pulling me away from that place. I desperately wanted to resist it.
“Errh…phone” I mumbled into the pillow “phone”
“Whassat? Whaa?” slurred Robert
We’d got back late for a Thursday evening. We’d been over to see some friends after supper; it must have been around twelve by the time we got into bed.
“Phone!” I stagger unsteadily out of bed, bumping into the chest and slipping on the rug.
“Light on?” murmured Robert from the depths of the duvet “Didn’t hear. Sure?”
We once tried to have a phone in our bedroom, but because of thick cob walls and a dodgy connection that was ungetatable we gave up. Sometimes we hear the phone at night and I guess sometimes we don’t. Often it’s a misdialled number or a hoax.
I drunkenly stumbled the stairs to the study, fumbled for the light, but missed the call. It had gone onto answerphone. No message. I dialled 1471 but my brain hadn’t hooked up yet and the numbers meant nothing. Shaking my head and slapping my face to reawaken the blood supply I was about to redial when the phone went again.
“Oll – what’s happened?”
None of those things that are meant to happen happened. My heart didn’t stop. My stomach didn’t plummet. I didn’t feel sick. I didn’t turn to ice.
“Are you okay?”
Those words – so futile – are you okay? Are you broken? Are you bleeding to death? Has your head, your body or any of your limbs been scrunched, torn, flung across the countryside? Is anyone else hurt, maimed, dead? Are you going to live? You are my child. I bleed when you do. Every one of your hurts hurts me…more. I love you.
“Are you okay?”
“I think so. Yes, I think so.”
He had also, unusually for a Thursday, been over to see some friends too. He’d decided to come home via a different route. They’ve been resurfacing all the small back roads and as he rounded a bend he hit a thick layer of new gravel and went into a skid; the wheels locked, he careered up a short elevated track to a field entrance, which flipped the car over bouncing it on a salt/gravel box, throwing it onto its roof and rolling it over again down the hill. It came to rest on the driver’s side in the middle of the road. He managed to crawl out of the passenger door.
Seeing it there, bottom side up across the road, a broken, skewed crushed metal box spewing forth glass, fuel and radiator fluid started the icy fingers of shock moving through my body. How he came out of it unscathed I don’t know. That no one else was involved – another miracle.
We managed to turn the car upright and tow it with the truck to a safe place near by. The next day in the light we would deal with it. Now back home, sweet tea and bed.
Robert and I felt peculiar yesterday – strange, disorientated and off-kilter. Olly, who I thought might be battered and bruised once the initial shock wore off was, still, miraculously, completely unscathed.
not olly’s car