Sunday 21 January 2018

Family Guy: Great to be out of hospital... Now can I have my life back?

Helen Flanagan as Rose in Corrir during her goth phase
Helen Flanagan as Rose in Corrir during her goth phase

I ARRIVE home from the hospital, still a little wobbly from surgery, to absolute chaos.

Through the sitting room window, as our car pulls in, the younger of the two dogs bounces on the chair she's not allowed on, like a bucking rodeo horse on a trampoline. I see the older dog glowering hatefully behind as a single pillow-feather floats through the air.

It's a silent ballet of sorts, for just a moment, and quite frankly, after eight days in hospital, the most beautiful thing I think I've seen.

Getting discharged hadn't been easy. I'd rather pushed the doctors to release me early. When my surgical team did their morning rounds they found me dressed and perched on the edge of my bed with my bag packed. "Going somewhere?" a nurse had said.

Eventually, they'd wheeled me down to the discharge lounge. "Discharge lounge," I'd repeated, trying the words out in my mouth. It was a bit like the VIP area of an airport. "Look, free coffee," I'd told my wife, pointing. I felt brittle and hollow as I filled out the forms, then I noticed a woman with a headscarf and no eyebrows waiting there too, and I felt like a fraud. "Let's just get home," I whispered hoarsely.

I go around to the rear passenger side of the car now and wrestle my bag out as my wife pounds on the sitting room window. "Get down! Get down!" The dog stops, looks at her, then resumes its dance.

I notice how raw and cold the air is, making my whole body feel like a wound undressed, after eight days.

The youngest opens the front door for us, holding back dogs awkwardly with one hand and a knee. Oddly, I notice, she has thick, black eye make-up on, like a raccoon. "Hello 'David'," she says.

"David?" I mouth to my wife, squeezing past. She shrugs. The dogs do laps around the downstairs.

In hospital, we'd be expecting the approaching rattle of a cart around now. 'Tea, love?' I'll have both, I'd joke, adjusting my bedspread for the tray. A nurse would call around soon after with another cart and I'd have the port for my IV ready. 'How's your pain, dear?' The ward would settle in for a mid-morning nap.

Even now, in our kitchen, I almost crane my ear for the carts.

"You must be hungry," says my wife. "Not really," I say. "I might make some tea and toast in a while." I'd never have tea and toast, normally. "Do we have any marmalade?" I'd never eat marmalade.

The youngest is joined by her older brother. The two hover around me now as the dogs patrol, sniffing at my overnight-bag. We make the kind of small talk families tend to make rather than saying things like 'So glad you're home' and 'We were really worried' or 'I love you'.

"I hope you've been doing your homework," I say to neither in particular.

"We tidied up," says Little Miss Eyeliner.

"I tidied up," corrects her brother.

When they talk to me, I notice, they don't look at me, they look at the scar on my forehead.

"It's called a plate," I tell them, answering a question no one has asked, "but it's really just a sort of Titanium mesh." I hold my forehead forward to show them. The youngest winces.

"How many stitches did you get?" asks her brother.

"Ten," I tell him. He nods, seeming to be satisfied with this information.

"Cool," he says.

Their mother yells from the other room. "What's my bra doing downstairs?" She comes in holding it. "Bloody dog," she says. On cue, one starts jumping around under the bra like a rodeo horse again.

"I might lay down for a minute," I announce.

Upstairs, I unpack my hospital bag and place my prescriptions in a row on the ledge above my side of the bed - painkillers, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory pills - then I lie down and curl up. I never sleep during the day, I think to myself.

When I wake up it's dark. There's music downstairs. The youngest is singing. My wife has lit candles. The house is filled with the smell of homemade chicken stew and I'm intoxicated by how exotic this all seems after eight days of hospital food and silence.

"You're up," smiles my wife.

"I am," I say.

"People have been asking about you all week," she says, moving in and examining me.

"That's nice," I say. It is. It's unfamiliar and humbling too. I'm the guy that hurt his head. That guy. It doesn't seem to fit, despite all good intentions. Like an embarrassing sweater someone's knitted as a gift.

Suddenly, more than anything, all I want is to be simply 'daddy'. I close my eyes and drink in the smells and sounds of home again as if for the first time.

The youngest pokes her head in. "I'm just going out, " she says, "Da-vid."

"Um, yes," I say, shaking off my reverie and following her out. "About that. . ."

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