The ambulance crew comes, two women in their mid 20s, one man in his 50s.
He explains they’re transferring my stepmom to cardiology ICU in a hospital used to dealing with pathologies linked to cancer.
“Can at least one of us ride with you, please?” I ask. The hospital is far, we live even further, and it’s rush hour so cabs are pointless.
“Sorry no can do, there are insurance implications for passengers unaccounted for. We don’t bend the rules unless the patient is critical,” he replies gently.
My stepbrother, father, and I start getting organized as I give the man my most expressive face. I know “les garçons” as my stepmom calls Dad and her son won’t ask for any help out of pride but I have no such qualms. And I do have a face that does away with the need for language when necessary.
The ambulance crew move my stepmom to the stretcher, strap her in, and the man looks at her with a smile.
“Alright then, we’ll take your husband as you lot seem to be having many logistical challenges to contend with,” he tells her. “The kids can sort themselves out.”
At this point, I bite the inside of my cheek hard so I don’t burst into tears. The terror on my stepmom’s face lessens somewhat and my father is smiling benevolently. As we make our way down the corridor and to the elevator, I gently place my hand on the man’s shoulder, “Hey, um… thank you very much,” I tell him; I’ve lost all my other words.
My stepbrother and I watch the ambulance speed off with light and sound, feeling a little bereft and unsettled. We do not talk but wait for our respective buses on opposite sides of the street, lost in thought. His car is a two-seater so he will bring Dad back home later and I’m going back to my parents’ condo.
A few hours later, my stepmom texts me.
“No need to postpone your departure to the Netherlands. You’re getting on that train to Amsterdam tomorrow,” she writes. Her son and my father have told me the same thing so I know pushing back is pointless.
They are keen on seeing me settled in Europe and the sooner, the better. And they know how much I’ve been looking forward to being with my friends again; those frequent stays in North Holland have been key to keeping me going.
So I pack my bag.
After two nights in cardio ICU and surgery to put a stent in her artery, my stepmom is already home; chemo is set to resume as soon as possible.
And I, meanwhile, have been tasked with bringing back the Dutch sour candy she loves so much but cannot find in France as it’s not exported.
“Here’s your house key,” my friends say when we stand outside the home they’ve just moved to.
Love can and will see you through anything.
And my family, our life, my life are living proof of this.