The hospice driver dropped Bridie off at the front of their house. He might have pulled in the driveway but it was littered with a GT sleigh and a hockey net. No kids in sight. “Are you my buddy again on Thursday?” Bridie asked the retired gentleman behind the wheel of the grey Kia.
“I hope so.” The weathered man smiled warmly. Ian was a volunteer driver for the regional Hospice program. He volunteered his time and hospice covered the costs of his mileage. Ian had retired in the Carter area. He was also a cancer survivor and this was his way of paying forward what he called his debt to life. His kind observations were comforting for Bridie while she was going through the palliative radiation. He knew a few tricks to deal with the nausea and burns. He was the one who drove her most often. She only thought about that now. Did they schedule it so there was some consistency in these long road trips? Not that she disliked the other people who drove she and or Doug and the kids. But Ian was a steady influence. He didn’t seem to mind that she preferred the back seat where she could spread out and close down. He was good with the kids. During the treatments themselves, she slept all the way home. Ian also didn’t get excited that because the seatbelt was especially uncomfortable for Bridie, she preferred not to wear it. He understood her comment ‘what difference does it make now’ without argument. One of the other drivers seemed offended when she didn’t sit in the front seat with her and had insisted Bridie buckle-up over her sore belly ‘because that is the law’. Yes, Ian had been a great support.
“I hope so too, Ian.” Gathering her things and unfolding herself from the vehicle was more involved than it had been say two years ago when she could jump and bound with the best of them. Now she took bending and unbending slowly and cautiously. Ian knew all this and busied himself with the notebook he kept up-to-date for hospice regarding each trip. “Thanks again Ian.” Bridie signaled her complete transition from sitting to standing. “I hope to see you Thursday.”
Bridie could hear the vacuum as she neared the back door. With the noise, no one could hear the door open and Bridie step inside. She saw first hand what her kid’s lives were like when she wasn’t here. First, there had been the driveway tangled with toys, now they were laid out on the couch and the floor watching a program about animals Both boys were glued to the close up of a crouching cheetah ready to bring down some kind of deer who at this moment was walking way too slowly toward a watering hole. Both boys flinched as the cheetah landed on the deer and latched on to its neck but Bridie noticed that Jamie looked a little away. She smiled recognizing he was more like her. Now some wild dogs were gnawing on what was left of the deer. The cycle of life…without the blood and gore of it, Bridie realized these babies were more exposed to it than they ought to be at this age. The love for her kids surged in her chest. When she was gone, this is how it would be.
The roar of the vacuum stopped abruptly but the boys didn’t even notice. Dianne walked out from the hallway leading to the bedrooms and saw Bridie standing in the foyer. “Shhh.” Bridie signaled to her putting her finger up to her lips, then pointing at the boys. Di caught her drift and continued past her carrying the vacuum back to the cupboard. On her way back, Di slid beside Bridie and hung her arm over Bridie’s shoulder. Bride dropped her head onto Di’s shoulder. “They just got home from school.” Di whispered. “They played a bit with the boys from next door and I hope you don’t mind I let them watch a bit of TV?”
“Not at all Di.” Bridie breathed into her sister-in-law’s shoulder. “I am so grateful to have you helping us out right now.” It had taken a while for Bridie to surrender the heavier work of being a mother. From the time Jamie was born she was fiercely independent. She barely let Doug pitch in with meals, laundry and groceries. She did the night vigils when the kids were sick. Doug accused her of being a martyr or not trusting him to get it right. Part of that was right, she smiled to herself, he put the plates in the dishwasher willy nilly. But right at this moment, Bridie wondered in her heart if she had just been greedy, grabbing every moment she could. Had she sensed deep in her consciousness where life was headed held tightly to her duties as her ration diminished? Now, she relied on everyone else to order her life. She hadn’t cooked a meal in two weeks and she couldn’t remember when she last inspected the dishwasher. She understood that her most important job now was to be with her kids, not fussing around them.
“I have dinner ready.” Di interrupted Bridie’s thoughts. “When Doug gets home he can just pop it in the oven…” Then as an after thought, “or you can pop it in…” Dianne had known Bridie too long and she understood the mixed feelings.
“I am good to wait for Doug.” Bridie conceded lightly. I’ll go watch the rest of this show with the kids.” Bridie left her carry bag in the foyer as she climbed the two stairs down into the family room. The boys heard her footfalls and ran to hug her, regaling her with tales of their day. Di swiped stray tears.
“I’ll fetch up Lynne while you get comfortable. Then I’ll make a quick tea before I leave.” Although Bridie had never said this out loud, Di knew it was hard for Bridie to bend over and picking Lynne up. She slid the offer of tea into the equation knowing Bridie wouldn’t say yes to one thing then no to the other. Bridie simply replied, “Thanks.”
Doug arrived as Di was leaving. When she asked if he would tidy away the driveway, his first response was “the boys need to come and pick up after themselves.”
“Not to worry Doug.” Di countered. “I’ll just slide everything in the garage on my way out.” To punctuate her offer, Di tiled her head toward the maternal cluster in the family room. “The boys are busy….”
“Thanks Di.” Doug muttered. His sister silently witnessed his shoulders deflate.
“Sorry Doug.” She reached out to touch his arm. “I’m so sorry.” And there was nothing else to say.
“Daddy, daddy.” Joey ran over to his father. “Mommy says Lynne has a new tooth! Soon she can eat broccoli!” This was an idea Joey clearly found hilarious because he collapsed into a heap of laughter at his father’s feet.