Certainty is often equated with death and taxes. And bad coffee.
I can slice certainty two ways. I could say there are no certainties or guarantees when one is sick or broken, or I could say that there are many certainties and guarantees when one is sick or a little bent. I’ll not take sides, so I’ll take a little from column A and a little from column B.
Living with a dis-ease can be trying. There is the certainty that you will probably die. There is also the certainty that you will live. There is a certainty that nothing – nothing at all – is certain.
The most important certainty I had growing up was my mother. She was and still is, the spine of our family. She would look after everyone else except herself. You have to remember that my mother was not only looking after a sick child, but she was also raising daughter, as well as shouldering the deaths of C.F kids she had grown to love as her own.
I do not know how she did what she did with such grace. She would be up in the ward when I’d clocked off at the hospital school for the morning, then she’d dash back to Jindalee to make sure she was there at 3pm on the dot to pick my sister up from school.
Then she would have had to cook dinner for my father and sister.
Then she would have helped my sister with her homework.
Then she would have cleaned up.
After that, I don’t know what my mother did. It pains me to think about my mother’s private hell with this routine of wake up, get daughter ready for school. Make school lunch and ensure daughter has everything she needs for the day. Drive daughter to school, drive home to finish chores. Drive to the hospital and trawl for a car park. Spend time with other daughter whose I.V has tissued and packed it in. Go with daughter into treatment room to be repeatedly cannulated. Talk to other mothers – some of whose own children are dying of the same dis-ease that your daughter has. Cuddle and help feed other kids. Kiss daughter goodbye, rush back to school to pick other daughter up, prepare afternoon tea and talk about the day which may include problems or celebrations for any achievements. Cook dinner, help with homework, clean up, talk to husband.
It’s like a bad dream and it loops over and over and over where I can see my mother sitting with me in Turner Ward in the early 80s. I can see her coming to collect me from the hospital school early so we can sit outside in the park with our lunch; I can see her biting her nails to the quick. What I can’t see – and what she wouldn’t let me see – is what this was doing to her. How I ache.
The other certainty was my Dad. He wouldn’t stay long – maybe twenty or thirty minutes – but he came up every night. If I was off my hospital food and wanted something special for dinner, like most kids I’d ask for KFC or Macca’s, but instead of bringing me dinner, Dad would bring enough food for all of the C.F kids – burgers, chips, chicken nuggets – everything. A bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and my father was an instant hero. Not many people know that he did these things. People know him as a generous man, but Dad would be the last person to tell someone what he’s done for others over the years.
He probably didn’t think much of it at the time (or ever for that matter) but to us – especially me – it was everything. To the nurses, he was just a man visiting his daughter in hospital. To me, he was my Dad and that meant sustenance through love – a relationship galvanised by actions where he offered wisdom through silence, and the ‘never give in gungerdin’ attitude I still look to whenever it is time to fall apart again.
I get cut open, my family stitches me back up.