“I see you in the rear view mirror” a lyric or a scene in a movie, where you see something there and it slowly gets smaller and smaller until it disappears into nothingness and you know that life will never be the same again, that was us, me in the front seat, my two sisters in the backseat still in their school uniforms and Vivienne in drivers seat. Driving away from our house where only moments before Mum was laying on the floor, eyes to the ceiling, had urinated herself, not being able to move and me an 11 year old boy trying desperately to find the answers.
Mum was taken to the hospital, I thought that’s where we were going as we drove in the car, but I was wrong we were going to Vivienne’s place, up the leafy driveway, we drove into the garage, we got our bags we had packed with clothes from the boot and walked up the stairs to her house, Vivienne had two kids Michael, who was a little younger than me and Rachael who was just a little younger than Alexis. We had been here many times before, I scanned the lounge room picturing my Mum sitting on the couch laughing and chatting with Vivienne over a cup of tea, this was always a safe place for me as Dad had never come over here because Vivenne and her husband (Tim) didn’t like him.
I remember a time I was over for a play date with Michael playing with Lego, we watched a movie and I fell asleep on the couch, Dad came to pick me up, I pretended to stay asleep on the couch because I wanted stay over, Tim said “He can say over”, Dad replied “No it’s ok I’ll take him now”. He picked me up and carried me down the stairs, I kept my eyes closed, I kind of felt safe him carrying me, we got to the car and instead of opening the door and putting me in, he threw me to the ground and said “Get up, get into the car.”
Vivienne said “Go to the room and unpack your bags” we knew that meant I was to go to Michael s room and Alexis and April were to go to Rachel’s room. In the room was a bed with blue doona with spaceship and toys, I found the Lego and started playing with it. I could hear Vivienne on the phone, talking to someone. Her kids was still at school, later that night we all sat down to dinner, kind of in silence, apart from the clinking of knifes and forks hitting plates, awkward coughs and quick eye glances. Vivienne said “Your mother is sick , real sick she’s going to be in hospital for a little bit.”
“What do you mean sick” I replied,
“Jamie I don’t know they are transferring her to Wollongong hospital, there not to sure at the moment, I will find out more information tomorrow.” apparently she went to the local hospital and though=out the day got transferred.
“Can we see her”
“No that’s probably not the best idea at the moment”
All our head went down and used the dinner as a distraction to avoid any more talking. When we finished our dinner I pretty much wanted to go to bed, I got into my p.js, those blue cotton long sleeve ones with patterns on them. I got into the make shift bed on the floor in Michael s room, as I was laying there I was thinking about the day that was, my god what was going to happen next.
The next day we all got dressed and ready for school, it was so strange to do something that was so normal, Vivienne had to do two school trips as we couldn’t fit into the car. At school I felt like everyone was looking at me, maybe they weren’t, maybe they were. I hung out by myself, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. My teacher came up to me later in the day and simply said, “Is everything o.k”, I just said “yeah”. And that was that he knew that the best thing was to give me space, something I really needed at the time. Later that night Vivienne told us that she found out that Mum had been flown to Sydney, Prince Henry Hospital, me and my sisters knew where that was, it was just up the road from where our Nan and Pop lived, Dad’s parents. “They think your mother had a stoke, she’s in intensive care, she is really sick and there not to sure what’s going to happen”.
Have you ever watched a movie where the actor is there and everything around them goes so huge and they feel so small, standing overwhelmed by the giantness of everything around you, nothing in comparison other than what is right there is of any importance. What did this all mean, was Mum going to die? What did intensive care mean? Why did she get flown to another hospital? Couldn’t all hospitals help people? Apparently not…
The next couple of days I was floating like a dream, I could see that Vivienne was feeling stretched and was becoming stressed with having 5 children and doing two runs to school and two pick ups, she was becoming more snappy and less patient, who could blame her really, if she hadn’t picked up the phone when I called her she wouldn’t be responsible for any of this, I’m not sure how but she got into contact with Jacko and Michelle, our babysitters, after school one day me and my sisters went to the pick up area, thinking that Vivenne was going to pick us up, but Michelle ran over to us and was holding some papers, “we’re your temporary foster parents, your going to stay at our house until your Mum’s back”
She hugged us and they both looked generally happy to see us, I was really excited about this, I really like them they made me feel good, and off we drove back the ground floor 2 bedroom apartment that we all were familiar with, my sisters and me all slept in the same room, them on the mattress and me on the floor. Everything seemed to be going slowly but the weeks all melded into one, strangely things seemed rather normal, and kind of got into a routine, I still went into the kitchen when Jacko and Michelle smoked pot, I watched as they smoked out of the bong, they called me in closed the door and we all sat around the kitchen table. I never touched anything, never had a smoke except for the sneaky inhale as Michelle exhaled in my direction with a cheeky smile on her face.
During one smoking session Michelle turned to me and said, “We’ve spoken to your Dad”. What, how, how did he know we were here….was going through my mind…. “Ok” came out.
“He wants to take you to the hospital with your sisters to visit you mum, the hospital said that you have to be over 12 to see her because shes in intensive care, but I pulled some strings and you and your sisters can go and see her.”
Pulled some string….?? What does that mean??
“Ok when are we going”
“This Saturday, I’m going to come as well, I think your Dad said we might drop into your Grandparents place”.
Am I ready for this…?? Saturday came, I really kind of wanted to stretch the days apart, my teacher at my school I kind of could feel his stare, he made a point to say hello to me every morning and goodbye every afternoon personally. I don’t know if he knew what to say, he once asked about my mother and I told him, he replied, well if there is anything you need let me know. That being said I got into trouble and I started rebelling a little, giving other teachers cheek, going out of bounds etc.
Saturday came, I was nervous, I hadn’t seen Dad since Mum and us left and moved into the woman’s refuge, he was to come around at 8am, we were all ready, KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. With each knock I jumped, holy shit he was there, there on the other side of the door, Michelle went over, opened the door, and there he was James Francis Morris.
Funny thing about our names, in my family the first born son was named James Francis Morris, so my Dad has the same name as he Dad and so on, straight from birth I was the black sheep, Mum didn’t want to call me James, but my Pop said he would disown me if I didn’t so she Named me James Allan Morris, Allan being her fathers name. But on birth I broke a tradition going back I don’t know how long and being the first James Allan Morris. Each of us had diffrent variations on our names, I was Jamie, Dad was little Jimmy or Jim and my Pop was Big Jim or Jim.
“You all ready” He said without any eye contact to me and looked at my sisters, “Dad” they screamed and ran over to him and gave him a hug, Michelle grabbed my shoulder and gave me a squeeze, I looked up to her and she smiled. We walked out of the door and into the car, Michelle in the front passenger seat and us three in the back, I don’t really remember the trip up there in the car, we had done this drive many times before driving up to the Grandparents, all of a sudden we were there, in Little Bay, the eastern suburb of sydney.
We drove up to the house and went in to see Nan and Pop and Uncle Scott, Dad’s youngest brother who lived in the garage that was turned into a makeshift apartment. It was really good seeing them, every time we were there we had KFC and this time was no different, there waiting was a big bucket of KFC, greedily me and my sisters like little pigs ran over and started eating the fried chicken goodness. It was really good seeing them all, Nan and Pop were really nice, Pop was always drunk but friendly and Dad was always nice when we were there, I noticed Scott and Michelle getting chummy, we were chatting, me and my sisters went outside and had a game of hide and seek, and ate the passion fruits that grew on the vine on the fence.
After a while it was time to get going, we left the car there as the hospital was only literally two blocks away, we walked up the hill and into the gates of the hospital, we walked into one of the wards, Michelle spoke to a lady, we pushed open the door and into the ward, there was s sign on the door.
“Intensive Care Unit
No-one under 12 may enter”
We pushed past the big white doors, the nurse ushers us in, she looked at us kids, frowned and looked like she was about to say something, but looked away, “She’s in here”.
In everyone walked, I was the last, was I ready for this…??
In I walked and I was blown away by what I saw
Let me paint a picture, Mum laying there, under one white sheet, on a hospital bed, she was laying there and there were wires coming out off her, cords up her nose, a drip standing next to her, a heart monitor connected to her chest, I could hear the beating of the heart monitor, I looked at her chest and noticed she had a cut and black stitches all the way down the middle of her chest, she looked at me and said “Jamie you were so brave”, this was all to much but she called me brave, “why do you have that cut on your chest Mum”, she slowly turned her head, she was in pain, but something was different with her, the left side of her mouth was limp, she was slurring “I had open heart surgery, I had a stroke Jamie”.
Whoa….. I had absolutely no clue what any of this meant the whole meeting time was quick I think we were just in there for like 30 minutes, it was time to say goodbye, I went up and kissed Mum on the cheek, she turned and looked into my eyes, she was in pain, she didn’t move her hands, we were all leaving Michelle suddenly said she just wanted to have a chat with Mum, she went back inside and we all waited outside, me, Dad and my two sisters, a family of misfits sitting and waiting all of us starting out to the distance, not talking not knowing what was going to happen next….