I knew something was up the moment I opened my eyes in a room on the seventh floor of the Rydges hotel at Southbank.
What I couldn’t know yet is it was very nearly midday and Tracey had been waiting for me to wake for hours.
“Hi,” she said. She was lying beside me, propped up on her elbow, staring into my eyes so purposefully I wondered if maybe I was about to get lucky – and if so, what had she been into from the minibar because I needed to order a couple of boxes?
“What’s up?” I asked her.
“Nothing,” she said. “I’ve just been waiting for you to wake up. I need to kiss you now.”
Three boxes. Maybe four.
I’m here to tell you, after thinking you’ve had your last conversation with the love of your life, there is nothing better to start the day with than their smiling face. Especially, when you’re alone in a hotel room because your kids are being looked after 200kms away.
“Before I’ve brushed my teeth?”
“I read your posts,” said Tracey, planting one on me. “I love you.”
I’m not saying we cried at this point, but we welled up and held each other for a while.
“What you went through…” she said.
“I’m fine,” I said, giving her a squeeze. “I’ve still got you. So what did you make of it?”
Even though Tracey had been conscious for nearly three months, she hadn’t read through the posts I’d written while she was fighting for her life yet. She’d tried, but found she didn’t have the energy for it. And to be frank I haven’t had a problem with that because any energy she’s had has been wisely expended on the kids.
But like I said, they weren’t here.
“I didn’t cry for myself,” said Tracey of the posts. “That side of it was almost surreal. I was just asleep. But the kids…”
I nodded. “I know.”
And I did. We’ve grown up with our parents in our lives. We’ve enjoyed the best of each other for twenty years. We’ve a lifetime of experience to bolster our emotions. We’ve lost friends. We’ve lost family. We know about the flipside of life and, while we don’t want it to stop our ultimate plan of growing old and withered together, we accept you can’t choose and you take whatever joy you can get and enjoy it like there’s no tomorrow.
But the kids…they were totally unprepared.
“The bit about when you had to tell them things weren’t good,” Tracey went on, “that broke my heart.”
“I was so drunk when I wrote that,” I said. I had to be. Then I read it again the following morning because I could barely remember what I’d written. I made myself cry. I still well up when I read that post. It’s all a bit raw. “I still can’t think about it too long,” I told her.
Explaining things to the kids was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I don’t think I could have done it without the family. I don’t have enough arms, and they needed hugs. In the past, when I’ve thought about families where a parent has died I never considered this side of things – having to explain it to the kids. I usually just think about them going forward without that parent. But that’s the moment their world changes. That’s the moment I daresay they’ll think about the rest of their lives.
“I’m so sorry they’ve had to go through that,” said Tracey.
“It’s not your fault,” I reminded her. “And don’t forget they’ve still got you. We’re both here to help them work it out.”
Which is what we’re doing. It’s our mission now.
A month out of hospital and they still get upset if Tracey needs to go to a doctor or looks worried about her bags. Their anxiety levels are through the roof. They need more hugs and one on one’s than ever.
They’re a lot like me in those respects.
But we’re getting there. And now, because someone rather sensibly suggested I keep an ICU diary, Tracey has had a glimpse of what we went through while she was sleeping.
So maybe I shouldn’t feel guilty she’d been awake for four hours that morning in a room on the seventh floor of the hotel waiting for me to wake up so she could tell me how much she loves me.
I figure I’ve got a bit of credit up on that score.
This was our journey during October:
4th October 2015 – I Thought I’d Lost Her
5th October 2015 – An Update On Tracey
7th October 2015 – Stable Is My New Favourite Word
9th October 2015 – No News Is Good News
11th October 2015 – Doing The ICU Cha Cha
14th October 2015 – Now We Hope And Wait And Trust
14th October 2015 – Could This Be The Turning Point
16th October 2015 – Some Comic Relief
18th October 2015 – This Can’t Be Happening
20th October 2015 – This Is It
21st October 2015 – Light The Way Home
23rd October 2015 – The Gutless Wonder
25th October 2015 – Speechless
27th October 2015 – It’s A Sign
29th October 2015 – Rooky Mistake
31st October 2015 – Appreciate The Small Things
What a month. For a long time Tracey couldn’t read these. She simply didn’t have the energy. She’d start and give up, exhausted. It was nearly two more months before she came home to our family. I would have waited a lot longer and not complained. But, Tracey, let’s not do that again.
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“Raising a family on little more than laughs.”