Early Mothers Day pressie
We all dread being woken up at 2:00am but when the phone rings at 8:30pm you're not normally expecting any bad news and the telemarketers have normally left their offices to catch the last train out of Mumbai.
Except for last night. Sapphire and I were watching a DVD documentary about a year in the life of a mob of kangaroos and we were stunned at the photography and how much we learned about these beautiful creatures that we hadn't known before. We had both showered and were warmly snuggled up together on the lounge in our dressing gowns, enjoying a few squares of chocolate. Love Chunks had just phoned us from Woomera, sounding homesick and not a little envious of our broadband wireless facilities and access to the coffee machine.
Then Dad called. "Your Mum's had a car accident, but please don't worry......"
"....she's been transferred from Strath to the Royal Adelaide Hospital on a back board so that they can properly x-ray her for any neck or spinal injuries."
I was unusually silent, listening. Dad continued, asking politely, "So it is OK if I stay at your place tonight?"
Funny what levels of manners you can still have under strain. What did he expect in response, a "No, actually. It's Tuesday night and Sapph has school tomorrow" ?? Sapphire was thrilled to give up her bed for Grandpa and slot into Love Chunks' empty spot with me, and, after being reassured that Grandma was not seriously hurt, she scampered off to her desk, calling out, "I've got to make her a really good 'Get Well Soon' card." The outcomes of the kangaroos' year would have to wait until later.
Dad arrived at 2am, exhausted but relieved. He'd spent several hours with Mum in the Accident and Emergency ward, surrounded by the wails, screams and groans of their Tuesday night intake. "One bloke had clearly lost a fight with his mate and a crowbar, and a couple of coppers had to spend the remainder of their shift sitting by the side of his bed. Another woman was as high as a kite and determined to undo the handcuffs that were securing her to her bed - your Mum might as well have been wheeled into the middle of the Christmas pageant for all the rest she got."
I had waited up for him, knowing that Mum was OK but still wanting to see Dad, hear it directly from him. Several stitches were dropped from the blanket square I was clumsily knitting - one of Mum's many community projects, this one being the provision of bed blankets for a homeless shelter.
It was nice lying next to Sapphire's warm, tiny body, hearing her breathing and surreptitiously reading the card she'd left on top of Grandpa's guest towel. The card was festooned with pop-up love hearts (thanks to an Origami book and a fondness for sticky tape), a portrait of them both sitting on the rock together at Kangaroo Island and 'I love you Grandma - you are the best there is and I'll hug you as gently as you'll let me.' How on earth did we make this kid?
Mum's x-rays showed no fractures and her back was described by the doctor as 'sprained'. Dad and I went to see her as soon as Sapphire was dropped off at the school gate, Milly the dog yanking at her leash to be allowed inside the classroom for a sniff but, as usual, being denied.
Dad explained that Mum's clothing had been cut by the paramedics. Sliced off, so they could insert the back board and keep her still. "Good thing I remembered to grab her PJs and gown before I left, or I'd be tempted to get her to fill up the tyres with air at the Portrush road BP in her arseless hospital gown." We both laughed harder and longer than we needed to, filled up with my strong coffee and relief.
There Mum was, in bed number five, floral flannelette pyjamas and a spot of mascara, nivea face cream and a nice slick of shimmery pink lipstick. Bruises on her arms from the medics' attempts to draw blood and finding that the shock of the accident caused her veins to retreat further than a taunted turtle. "Your back will be looking blacker than the sky out there," I said, kissing her.
She told us that her biggest worry was the need to do a wee during the ambulance ride. "There I was, pretty well naked down the front, begging them to find a bed pan. Unfortunately it couldn't be used because I was on a board, so they shoved a bunch of towels under me and said to 'go for it'," she recalled. However, she got a weird case of performance anxiety and couldn't do it until the ambos considerately stopped off for a coffee and stood chatting outside whilst the towels changed colour.
She held both our hands as we walked her slowly to the car - how was she going to clamber inside Dad's much-used, dusty old 4WD? With ease - no stooping, just sliding in, smiling. They drove me back home and as we reached our street, there was Sapphire, her teacher and her classmates, standing in front of the building site of a McMansion near our house. I remembered that they were studying buildings and architecture this term.
Dad stepped on the brakes and called out to her. "Grandma's OK, Sapph! Come and say hello!" She did, as did her mates, and Mum looked as though she was enjoying the attention. Sapphire looked as though she'd scored the 'Show and Tell' jackpot for that week at least.
At home, Mum was settled in our best reading chair, enjoying another round of strong coffees and some of my homemade Nigella breakfast slice. Milly took great care to sit at Mum's feet, licking her hands whenever they were low enough. "Well, do you still want to cook me lunch on Sunday?"
"Oh and in the back of the car - if it's not broken - is a casserole dish I bought myself from Big W yesterday. If you haven't got me a present yet, you can give me that if you like."
Absolutely Mum. If this is the car-accident-you-had-to-have, and all you did was run off the road in wet weather and end up in a ditch, then you've won the jackpot. And so have we.