A big week made biggerBy Emma Pearson
September 22, 2023
1st September 2018
It’s Saturday morning and I am sitting in bed – with the dog. In my new life, this is one of my favourite times of day. That, and going to bed. There’s something about bed there, being in bed. A bed theme. I know some widows who intensely dislike, even fear, the prospect of going to bed. And yes – the gaping chasm of loneliness and sadness that is there all the time does accentuate at bedtime. I cry a lot in bed as I go to sleep. But most of the time, my day-time is so full-on still, with the three kids still at home, the dog, the cat, the never ending jobs to keep all of our plates spinning, plus of course more than full time freelance working (because any independent employment is always more than full-time), that going to bed is just pure relief. Sleep is a form of dying, after all. Numbing unconsciousness. And I do also like the times I can just sit and be and read and write and drink frothy coffee in bed. Still do. There’s still comfort there. Even if I just wish Mike were beside me doing the same thing.
I went “back” to work this week. In that I had my first client-facing engagements since before the massive summer break I took. It was a full-on week. Client facing work on the Monday in Lausanne, then 7+ hours door-to-door travel to Sweden and an evening do on Tuesday, off-site facilitation on the Wednesday & Thursday, 7+ hours door-to-door travel back home, and finally another full client-facing day in Lausanne on Friday. For me, for my line of work, that’s full on. Compared with my former corporate and consulting jobs that’s full on. For some people it might not be full on, but for me, a full week of “holding space”, working with group dynamics, bringing energy, being super-present, thinking and redesigning on my feet from moment to moment, thinking creatively, having late dinners… is pretty damn full on. I love it. It’s tough. And it’s full on. It was my first full week like that in a long long time. Since Mike died. Since well before Mike died. At least a couple of years. I am so pooped.
At 5pm yesterday I left the client site in Lausanne and checked my phone. Voicemail from the lovely South African woman who has been staying with us to help with pet sitting in these transition weeks: “Black, the dog, bit Ben; he might need stitches; here’s what we are going to do about it right now but you should come back”.
Interesting how my first reaction was, “oh – I’ve got this”. Not, “oh fuck, oh shit, I hope he’s okay”. Not, “oh fuck, oh shit, there goes my nice quiet Friday night”. Just, “ok – yup – ok Emma, onwards”. The relentlessness of “coping”, “being on”, “surviving”. Just a normal day, a normal week, a normal month in the abnormal landscape of widowing.
Finding quick ways to cut corners and build in treats. Let’s go to a hospital in neighbouring Switzerland. I can’t bear the drive during rush hour traffic to where the nearest French hospital is. Fuck not having insurance for Switzerland health care. How expensive can some stitches be? Also means the amazing Rachel who’s already helped with getting Megan to the airport today, and is now driving Ben around from pharmacy to local doctor, can drop him off there and I don’t need to go all the way home first. Ok – no food shopping tonight, so take away pizza. Have I got enough reading material on me? When will my next quiet time be? Not for a few weeks. October. Okay then. October. Let’s go.
Sometimes I talk to myself as though I were organising a platoon.
All was well. A 5.5 hour wait to be seen by the nursing team (three stitches and we need to go back today and another day). Too late for pizza on the way home, but our lovely pet sitter had made enough pasta to go around for a post-midnight snack. Quick, slightly tentative cuddle with the dog who’s so very apologetic. And then, oblivion in bed.
Reflecting on our Accident & Emergency experience yesterday, a few things come to mind.
I have only been to A&E on a Friday night before. It’s not a good time. Worse things than a dog bite come in, meaning dog bite victim is always at the bottom of the triage. Actually, two people were there for even more minor things than Ben.
There are a surprising number of people in A&E on their own. And of the people on their own, many are elderly. There were a number of elderly people, sitting, waiting on their own. Without reading matter. Without internet assistance. Without comfort. A significant minority. I wondered about their circumstances. Widowed or otherwise single most probably. Arriving, sitting alone. One lady who had waited nearly as long as we did, and who was probably well into her 80s. Arriving, waiting waiting waiting, being seen. Then leaving, shuffling slowly towards the bus stop. My heart ached for her as I saw her slip out of sight, wondering of what fear and loneliness she was carrying. I wish I had offered to take her home – it was so late. But I wanted to be there for Ben. But in this instance she probably needed someone even more than Ben did.
And A&E France is where I accompanied Mike during his illness. On a wintry Friday night. When his temperature spiked when he was on chemo. It’s something you quickly learn in the land of cancer and chemo. Temperature spike means go to A&E. A horrible experience for him, for me, and for the kids who were just left to figure stuff out while we were gone so long. One of so many memories I don’t like to revisit.
No wonder yesterday’s visit took me to the Swiss side of health care. No wonder I was so clear that it was just one more blip in a big week. I am not ready to go back to A&E in France. Too much anxiety and sadness. Too loaded.
Bring on the Swiss hospital bill. I’ve got this.