The news of the accident came as such a shock. Calvin being flown to hospital by helicopter, as the workmate on the phone said “They only do that for the ones who would die if they went by road”.
2 weeks of hearing daily reports from the hospital in that foreign place where they barely spoke English. Wondering how we’d ever pay the hospital bills, as the company only covered people for the flight back home.
Me frantically obtaining a second loan on the house, trying to keep the kids calm. Working every day, trying not to lose it in the middle of all the stress.
“Why don’t you go to him?” asked his mother irritated with me in tears on the phone.
Oh if I could imagine any way to afford it I’d be there like a shot. But how on earth could I leave? If I wasn’t there my job would be given to someone else; I wasn’t yet a permanent member of staff. Who would look after the children? With neither of us earning, how soon would we have to lose the house?
Night after night, after I was sure the kids were asleep, I’d cry myself silly.
The fights with the children over money. Without Calvin’s salary as a contractor over there, things were as tight as they’d been a year ago. By now the kids had become accustomed to a little pocket money again. To have to tell them there was none was horrid. They blamed me, as though I could have taken a better paying job. (Well I guess I could have, but being a prostitute was still far from where I saw myself)
Two more weeks, in a normal ward, now only a report every second day. Then the day we had a real phone call. Calvin in a wheelchair, another patient helping him to the phone. Just a minute to say he loves me, then gone, the payphone beeping nastily in my ear.
Another three weeks, and someone from the company phoned. Calvin was on a flight the next day. They would have an ambulance pick him up and deliver him home. That scared me. How ill was he really still if he had to have an ambulance to bring him home.
I decided to splash out for his homecoming supper. As we’d been living extremely plainly for a few years now almost anything would have been fancier than the normal.
A chicken, cooked the night before and taken off the bone, mushrooms, cream, the nicest fresh vegetables. The bones made stock for a chicken and corn soup. And for dessert, I made ice cream, from my sister’s recipe, wonderfully creamy, with a small punnet of real strawberries chopped in it.
I came home from work in a hurry, arriving at exactly 5.10 as the boss let me leave 5 minutes early to catch the earlier bus.
I’d hardly taken a glass of water to start getting the veggies ready when the children started yelling. I rushed out. Here came the ambulance, with a car leading it. Oh dear, my heart sank, was it this serious.
A man got out of the car, he came over smiling. Well Mrs G, I have him back home and safe for you, all your problems are over. I smiled thinking “you have no idea how it feels to have the whole home under threat again mister!”, but all I said was “Thank heaven I couldn’t live without him”.
I walked round to the back of the ambulance, praying he’d be ok. The door popped open and my own darling man scrambled down on his own, with the help of a cane. I was amazed. Calvin laughed and took me in his arms, then we were hit by the children’s bodies running in to hug as well. We all laughed and cried.
Calvin shook hands with the man and thanked him. The car and ambulance drove off. Calvin took my arm and said “What’s for dinner? I’ve missed your cooking.”
I started to shake and cry. He took me in and sat me down, holding my hand. “Sweetheart, everything is going to be ok” he said.
I sobbed and sobbed, I got another loan, we can pay for your hospital and everything, I’ll work and work till you can too.
He held me while I sobbed, then he gently dried my eyes, and kissed me. “The construction company have been sued by my boss, they paid for the whole thing, they have paid enough beyond that so I don’t need ever to work again. Not that I’d be able to safely do any of the climbing in buildings ever again.”
While he explained it all, and how the damage had been, and the operation he still needed, here back home where we could at least go and see him, he kept holding me and drying the tears that continued to pour down my face.
Then he laughed and said “If you don’t stop crying, the chicken I can smell will be too salty, and I’d hate to let you ruin your good cooking”.
We walked into the kitchen, and Calvin helped mix the cream into the chicken. The children came and helped carry plates.
Over the soup, chicken and corn, Calvin caught up with the children’s news. Who had achieved what, who had what problem, who wanted a puppy from the litter next door. Watching his face as he listened and became a part of home again I let myself relax.
With the main course, stealing our daughter Mary’s mushrooms from her plate, as she dislikes them and Calvin loves them I watched us all become ourselves again. It was only when David, our eldest said, “You know mum cried herself to sleep every night”, that I realised how much they had understood.
David went out to the kitchen and came back with a bottle of champagne. We hadn’t had any alcohol in the house for so long, it just didn’t fit into the budget. Mary followed with 4 glasses. David explained “I mowed Mr Bradley’s lawn for him and he gave me this as he heard dad was coming home”.
Cavin popped the cork, and we all sipped. Mary giggling as the bubbles tickled her lips. We all started to laugh, and then the family jokes began. By the time we got to the ice-cream I felt I had created the best dinner ever.
As the children began to tidy away the dishes, Calvin looked across at me, with a full glass in his hand and said “That was the best meal you ever cooked, and it’s had a lot of competition over the years”