Wearing his shirt isn’t meant to be dramatic. It’s soft and comfortable. It was in reach as I tumbled out of bed, bleary-eyed. All would be well by the afternoon. A hospital admission just to be on the safe side, that was all. Not his doing. Doctors who care. Gratitude for that helps to balance out the panic.
Waking up to him not being there opened the flood gates. How could a house feel so empty when there were still two little boys tearing their way through the rooms? Bread made. Laundry done. Dishes drying. Remembering earlier visits to hospital. The ones he had brought about by his own actions. Realising I still live in fear of them.
There are all the indications that those admissions aren’t likely to happen again. That at the very least, the rarity of their occurrence will put blue moons to shame. Conversations to plan against them are so civilised. Pleasant and easy. Nothing like the nights I’ve spent sitting in the kitchen, leant back against a cabinet, staring at the space above the cupboards, wondering when it might happen. Wondering if, for all the signs, I would actually know it was coming.
His medication is locked away these days. Two keys, both hidden. Every night I retrieve the next day’s lot of medication. Every week I sort out the week ahead. Pushing the pills from the blister pack, I try to avoid the foil slicing into my fingers. The fine cuts get real old, real quick. I hate doing it. Is hate too strong? I’m not sure. I have an immense dislike of the task at hand. Seeing his issues dissected into boxes and blister packs. Seeing the residue of his pain relief settle on my fingers. When I’m done I wash my hands more thoroughly than if I’d been handling raw meat. It’s all in the name of avoiding bloodshed. But it’s more than that, too. So much more. Those rattling boxes are all a part of being able to read stories to our boys. Of being able to help with homework and put together a train set.
He is doing so well. And I’m so scared of losing sight entirely of how far he’s come. But no matter the progress, I’m always looking over my shoulder. Past admissions get further away. Some of them remain as sharp as ever. I don’t miss that chaos. I don’t miss seeing him put back together.
I try to balance it all by leaving notes and emails for him. Whether or not he knows what’s been on my mind, I know his memory struggles. If I’m going to acknowledge all that’s passed, I’m going to acknowledge the good, too. The wonderful, the ecstatic, the butterflies and laughter. I tell him why I couldn’t stop grinning when he got out of the shower. The memory is balanced with the recollection of his recovery post-surgery. I remind him of that T-shirt, the restaurant, the hotel. I can see his injuries so clearly but the hurt is from my smile. The shrieks of laughter come rushing back. The warmth of him as we braced against the freezing cold of that winter night wrapping itself around us. The quiet retreat to the hotel. Raising a glass to us. Tumbling into bed.
There is fear. I think there always will be. But there is also wonder. And laughter. And love.