The phone call came at 2am. I missed it the first time, still sleepy eyed and dreamlike, but somehow stumbled across the landing to the back‐bedroom office for the alarm call of the second attempt.
The voice was unfamiliar but she knew my name. I didn’t catch hers. It didn’t seem important. She introduced herself as a nurse and was trying to sound calm.
“I think you should come in,” she said. “But don’t rush. Try to do so in a measured way.”
A measured way? You call me at 2am, wake up the baby, make me stub my toe on the swivel chair in the office and now you’re telling me to call a taxi, speed across town and come into the hospital in the dead of night while doing so in a measured way. You try it.
I knew what was coming and I knew the implications. But on the cold‐leather back seat I tried to shut them out. My little girl had a birthday party the next morning and we hadn’t wrapped the present.
The taxi was slow, the rain torrential and the man on reception ushered me inside without wanting to catch my eye. Everything felt dream like.
But there was no wailing, no gnashing of teeth, nor a sense of a runaway truck careering along a switchback bend. There was nothing. Was that measured enough?
She missed all this, of course. After all the years of prodding, the vein stabbing, and the terminal indignity of the disease, to be spared the slow‐motion hospital scene was probably a relief.
For everyone else there was no preparation time, no time to put things in order, no time to say those, well, things. But would chapter and verse from the specialist have helped?
Probably not. There’s no life lesson here and no nugget of homespun wisdom to pass on down the generations.
People say, “We know what you’re going through.” They don’t. It’s different for every single one of us and we all just have to find our own way.
The same nurse — Helen, we have by now established — was waiting as I got out the lift. She shifted uneasily on her heels and led me to a little room where dad was sat alone.
There were tatty magazines on the sofa and a poster on the wall about hand‐washing hygiene. I was searching for distractions.
He looked tired as he stood up. “She’s already gone,” he said.