Posted by: Louise | May 28, 2010

the radar of chance – a beginning

Once upon a sunny day K popped out from work at lunchtime to grab a sandwich. As he wandered, he happened upon a promotional van for a national radio station and thought (as you do) “I wouldn’t mind a T***** FM pen”. So he asked for one and they said, No problem, just fill in your details on this card. Its for a prize draw – a trip to Florida. And so he did, took his pen (long since lost) and went off on his merry way in search of a sandwich.

Months later K’s phone rang. It’s T***** FM. You’ve won a prize. You’ve one THE prize. No one ever wins THE prize. At least no one you know ever wins THE prize. People wanted to touch us to see if our luck would rub off. Up until that point we were just like everyone else. Now we were the extraordinarily lucky people, the people things happen too.

We went to Florida, K and I. I fell in love with the manatees.
Florida had its first winter in five years that week. We should have sensed something was up, but we were extraordinarily lucky……

We did check out Disney, felt obliged to really. The kids – Giraffe Princess and Astro boy – were not impressed at being left behind. Little boy racer was putting all his efforts into learning to walk back then. Disney was not on his radar. K promised we’d bring them when LBR was five. It seemed a lifetime away. How little we knew.

Twelve months later – I had the courage to report the man who had molested me, 30 years previously, to the police. Nothing to do with luck or chance. That took years of hard work and more courage than anything I’d faced to date, but it became tangled up in the chaos of all that followed.

Weeks later K was sick. K was really sick. K was dying. (Allow one day for each of those statements) “Why didn’t you bring him to us earlier?” the shocked doctor queried. I thought it was the flu, K gasped in my defense, his skin grey, his breathing shallow and laboured. The doctor rang for an ambulance to bring him the 1km from his surgery to the hospital, then worried it wouldn’t get to K quickly enough.

K’s chest x-rays were the ones all the doctors in A&E wanted to look at that day. Can I see? And when did his symptoms start? And he isn’t HIV positive? He doesn’t have TB? Incredible. What about lung cancer? Some things are too much to take on board. I was in the middle of my MA. It didn’t even occur to me that I shouldn’t go to college the next day. People might actually think you are a bit odd if you do, a dear friend suggested. I had never been at the epicentre of crisis before. I began the fragile walk of ‘holding it together’ in a falling apart kind of way.

As I sit here looking back at what I’ve written, I think that was enough really. That was more than enough to be coping with, with three small children and a part-time job and an MA. K was in hospital. I binned the duvet and the pillows. They were too rank with sickness. I still love our replacement duvet. It was such a comfort during that month of hospital visits and tears and complications and tubes and robust husbands wasting away to little old men and endless tests.

It was pneumonia, plain old pneumonia, but, for some reason, in its most aggressive form in my cycling-12km-to-work-and-back-everyday husband. He came home after a month, but had to return for surgery to repair the damage it had done to his lung. I struggled on with work and study and mothering and minding because life doesn’t stop in a crisis.

There was surgery – 10″ incision, rib spreaders, intensive care. Thankfully no complications. A holiday was planned. Three weeks in France before K was well enough to return to work – convalescence. Our longest holiday ever. We’d earned it.

In early July we went to France, took the ferry with our car. Smoke came out of the back of the car. An oil leak grew, mutated as we wondered in disbelief. Our car began its long sojourn at the garage. Huge parts needed replaced and then the car’s computer stopped working. We were with friends who spoke french and knew something of mechanics – small mercies.

Two weeks later, the day before our holidays were to end we went to the garage yet again, this time to pay the 3000 euro bill and collect our car. I kid you not, as K was handed the receipt (our credit card groaning in agony) one of our friends ran in to us carrying a howling Little Boy Racer. He had fallen on sharp gravel outside and somehow split his knee badly. We finally had the car and we had to go straight to the nearest hospital half an hour away. We were long past the point where our lives could be scripted into a soap opera. Two years later and the LBR still bears a very impressive scar.

We were home. I was back writing essays. K was back at work. It was October and one day I found myself running down the road hailing a taxi and, for the second time in five months, making the trip across town to the doctor with one of my men gasping for breath in the seat beside me, this time the Little Boy Racer. It would appear the regular heavy colds that had his chest labouring for air were in fact asthma attacks. Two days later K lost his job.

If I stop writing now, I can end before the afterlife begins. I can pretend the next bit never happened. All that stuff was a lot. We were most definitely the people that things happen to now, but regrettably not the people anyone wanted to touch anymore – at least not for luck. There were plenty of sympathetic hugs on the go. If I stop writing now, there is a small window where I can breathe, where the weight of all that followed does not crush my chest. If I stop writing now, I can pretend there is a little baby girl in a cot here beside me, sleeping the heavy sleep of one who is putting all her efforts into learning how to walk. I can pretend……..



  1. All very implausible really. But we have the scars to prove it. You were magnificent throughout.


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