Three weeks before D was to arrive, my friend from Guelph came for a holiday with her daughter and son aged 4 and 5. I’m not sure if my mother offered me her motor home because she liked my girlfriend, or because she didn’t want the little children to be cold out ‘camping’ – but I had never been offered the use of it before. Whatever her reasons were, I wasn’t going to refuse and off we went on an adventure into the Rocky Mountains. We camped in some of the most beautiful spots in the world, secure from the bears and creatures in the motor home. We traveled up to Banff National Park where we camped at Johnson Canyon and then moved on to Marble Canyon. In the mornings we rose early and watched the mist rise off the river as we sat in our lawn chairs and drank our tea – wrapped in our blankets and sporting our slippers. We let our supper cook in the oven as we drove from one breathtaking camping spot to another, delighting in the simple fact that our meal was ready for us when we settled for the evening. We escaped!
At the end of a week filled with laughter in a friendship that had only grown deeper with time – I took them to the airport and dropped them off. As I saw them off at the gate, I rubbed myself with glee knowing that D would be coming into this same airport in a couple of weeks. Somewhere between the airport and my home, I started to get a headache. By the time I staggered up the walk to the big blue barn, it was all I could do to get myself up to the third floor and onto my bed. I don’t know how or when my cousin found me curled on top of the comforter, but I do remember him carrying me back down the sidewalk and taking me to the local hospital.
The doctor on call took one look at me and thought it was Meningitis and suggested it would be faster for my cousin to race me to the big city then it would be for him to get the ambulance. He picked me up once more and put me in his car and raced for the next hospital. I remember that. The next thing I remember is waking in a hospital bed and saying I was hot. A nurse was sitting beside my bed and immediately took my temperature before racing for ice and fans. I remember thinking how cold I was before sinking into the blackness once more.
The next time I awoke my mother and younger sister were sitting on chairs beside the bed and were in the middle of a prayer when I opened my eyes. I was surprised to see them there and to find that I was indeed in a hospital. My brother appeared for a while at the foot of the bed and his face made me wonder if something was wrong, but it all faded again as I slipped away into the darkness. The next time I awoke my brother was gone but my sister and mother were again deep in prayer, but they had changed their clothes. I became aware of bags and tubes and monitors everywhere, but somehow I couldn’t relate it to me. My mother kept asking me where my friend and I had been and what we had done. I thought that perhaps I had damaged the motor home and didn’t know it – but that didn’t seem to be the case. However, it just seemed easier to slip back into that dark place then answer any more questions.
Another time I woke to find my cousin sitting with my mother and sister and he beamed at me when I became aware of their presence. I had no idea that a week had passed while they came in and out of my room and said their prayers. After that I began to get some strength back and could stay awake for longer periods of time. My mother came every day and held my hand while she visited. Her kindness and attitude overwhelmed me and I often found myself in tears when she departed.
Slowly my strength returned and I was allowed to walk the halls with a nurse. The doctors had no idea what had caused my illness. After they ruled out Meningitis they wondered if I had Malaria. When that was ruled out they wondered if I had been infected by a mosquito. As this was before West Nile Virus was named – they didn’t have much to go on and could only react to my symptoms. I had been in the hospital long enough to interfere with the arrival of D and the plans that we would work together on the store computers. When my worrying about missing D started to affect my health, the specialist wrote a letter to the airline and they let him change his flight.
There came a day when I was strong enough to walk the halls without the walker they had parked beside my bed. Putting on my housecoat and slippers I set off down the long corridor with my hand trailing against the wall in case I weakened. When I got to the end I turned the corner and kept going – happy to be able to go a little further. Down this corridor I came across a little room where they served tea and cookies to patients and visitors. With my strength waning quickly, I slipped into a chair and accepted a hot cup of tea and listened while someone played the piano that sat in the corner. I kept wishing my mother was there to share a cup of tea with me and listen to the pianist. When I finally got up enough strength, I made the long slow journey back to my room and climbed up onto my bed.
Weary but triumphant over my gathering strength, I was surprised when a nurse came in a told me she had a message for me. My mother had been to visit as usual and could not find me. They had paged me several times over the PA system but I didn’t hear anything over the piano in the tearoom. When I didn’t return to my room she told the nurses to tell me that since I hadn’t come when they called, that she would never return. And she didn’t.