Sitting in a hospital room is always a ghastly experience; everything right down to the smell seems designed to cause as much discomfort as possible. Today though, it seems so much more nauseating. I would get sick but it would take more effort than I could ever hope to muster.
I suppose for you to understand why I hate hospitals so much we have to go back to my childhood. I know that’s a cliché but clichés exist for a reason, there is always a certain truth to them. I had two loving parents and a younger sister. Like most Irish kids of the 1980s I was raised in a “Catholic” household, although mass was reserved for Christmas and funerals only. Today the Christmases seem to all merge together but it’s the funerals I’ll never forget.
My sister died before I ever knew her and I lost my mother when I was just six years old after a long and arduous illness. They say it’s a tragedy for a parent to outlive their child but I always felt to lose a parent so young was the real tragedy. I used to envy my father because he at least had happy memories; his wedding day, my sister’s first word. What did I remember? Illness, pain and suffering; there are no fun stories or cheerful memories. Maybe I was just too young or maybe I jettisoned my happy memories like some sort of overloaded boat, lost in a sea of darkness not wanting them to weigh me down.
Regardless of the reasons, I grew up an isolated and bitter child. I knew I should have a little sister to play with, and I had to constantly hear about how amazing my mother had been. I suppose people thought this would make me feel better, as if the fact that she was a dancer and had an amazing sense of humour would help. It didn’t, all it did was make me regret even more how little I knew her. But I persisted; I channelled my pain into a successful career pushing numbers around spreadsheets and advising people with too much money how they could accrue even more. Inexplicably, I met a woman who not only forgave my misery but gradually dragged the real me out of it. I grew my business, not for me, but for her and for the life I wanted us to lead, together, forever.
That won’t happen now, although we continue to pretend it will. I try to remember the happy times, to give myself some sense of joy. It doesn’t work; how could it? My mind stops wandering, and I turn my head towards the hospital bed in front of me. I see her lying there, motionless. Little Penelope, my darling daughter, my little angel. We called her Lelope; she never even learned to pronounce her own name.
I was so wrong, I know that now. It’s the happy memories that make the pain so much worse.