Write about your strongest memory of heart-pounding belly-twisting nervousness: what caused the adrenaline? Was it justified? How did you respond?
Despair seeps through walls like the ghost of a loved one, and wraps round your heart, and lungs, choking the air and numbing the senses until all you can see is a blurred tear-filled void, where happiness once lived.
I knew it was bad news about Dad when I walked into the room and saw my mother cradling my little sister’s head to her chest, and both their wretchedly anguished faces, streaked with tears. Mum didn’t want to tell me, I could see it in her eyes. But she knew if she didn’t my sisters would, not that it would have made a difference. The blow was like a blunt instrument to the head, regardless.
“Dad’s in the hospital, intensive care,’ Mum told me as gently as she could,’he crashed the Holden on Top-Grass Road on the way home last night. His dog died.’
I told him not to drink and drive! I told him he would have an accident! But what would I know, I was just fifteen.
Mum took us to see him. He’s alive, just be grateful, he’s alive. His face was swollen to almost twice its normal size, with a big gash through his stitched lip. He looked like the Elephant Man… like a stranger. His leg was broken and in plaster, his neck in a brace, his jaws wired shut, a drip in his arm and a machine that went … beep.
I sat in the hall outside his room for three days and cried rivers on the floor.
‘Don’t worry Love,’ Grandad told me, ‘you’re having a worse time than he is right now. He’s got no idea what’s going on.’
‘Would you like to sit in the Chapel for a while?’ a kind Nun said. I wasn’t a church goer. But I prayed my wee ass off that week.
He had to be placed in an induced coma for weeks and weeks, apparently. I couldn’t say, my memories fail me at that time because my emotions were keeping him company in that coma and my mind had no room for anything else in those long weeks.
He eventually awoke, rudely demanding someone get him a beer. When they couldn’t understand him, he forced his jaw until the wires broke, and we laughed, because we were worried he’d be brain damaged, and not the man he was. Asking for a beer was proof that Douggie was still in there…somewhere, in some form.
He had to learn to walk again. My big brave truck-driving father became a spindly weak man who I probably could have lifted off the chair, myself. The knock to his head gave him double vision, and he had to wear an eye-patch looking like a cack-eyed pirate.
But when the bully at school decided to punch me in the face, and I got little sympathy from my mum when I told her, ‘you should’ve hit her back,’ she’d said; I walked all the way to the hospital, and cried on Dad’s shoulder because I knew he’d always understood me and he lifted his skinny weak arm, placed it on my shoulder … and I knew, he was still my Dad.