It Was Then That I Carried You
Written by Jamie Fewery on Tuesday the 7th of September 2010
"Oh. This bloody chair!” says Edie Miller, as she struggles
to get both wheels moving simultaneously and starts veering left, right, left,
right down the hospital corridor.
"Don't swear honey,” replies her
"Whatever” Edie says, under her
Myra walks behind her daughter.
Following as she zig-zags along the light blue vinyl, occasionally having to
hold herself back from helping by grabbing the rear handles and steadying the
wheelchair. She knows that Edie would yell if she even tried. Ever since she
had gotten up out of the hospital bed, after being told that the next few
months would be spent chair-bound, Edie has shown a great determination to
master her new mode of transportation. Regardless of its temporary nature and
the inherent weakness in her nine year old arms.
"Are you sure you're OK?”
apology comes from the girl and Myra doesn't try and force one. She has recently
relaxed her principles about curse words, if only for the time being. On-listeners
will have to understand that extraordinary circumstances usually bring about
compromise, and that is why she has a swearing nine-year old daughter. Even so,
certain words are still out. So when Edie had genuinely and properly sworn two
days ago Myra snapped and scolded her daughter, knowing full well that every
other patient and parent on the children's ward could hear her through the
curtains that separated the dorms.
Edie was in hospital because she was hit by a Ford hatchback
one hundred yards from her house and had come out of the encounter bumped,
bruised and with a pair of broken legs. When the doctors told Edie that she had
minor fracture in each tibia she smiled as the name of the bone reminded her of
the name of her next-door neighbour's cat. Her thoughts then wandered off in a
new direction away from anatomy, leaving Myra to listen alone to the doctor's
prognoses and later relay the information back to Edie.
driver of the Ford was a nineteen-year old boy named Ant, who lived in the street
adjacent to the Millers'. A passer-by at the time of the accident said Ant had
jumped straight out of the car and ran to Edie after he hit her. He also called
an ambulance and spent the time between the call and the arrival sat on the kerb
crying. When the paramedics turned up with a single police car in tow, Ant offered
himself up for arrest, all bleary eyed and sniffling, as if he had been hit
with the worst case of hay fever you could imagine.
The police were kind to him and
explained that whilst there would be some involvement from them, he had behaved
very responsibly and done the right thing. Since then Ant had sent flowers and
a card to the hospital and had his corner fought for him by Edie, who told
anyone who would listen that she crossed the street without looking and that it
was her own fault.
Myra's reaction was far less
considered. When she was told by a neighbour that her daughter had been hit she
came scuttling out of the house, muttering "oh my God, oh my God, oh my God” under
her breath. She got to the scene of the accident out of breath from her short
run, and upon seeing Edie sat in the road covered in a blanket, broke down in
tears. Myra dropped to the floor herself, hugged her daughter and aggressively
stroked her hair. The whole thing looked like the reunion in a film where a
child has been kidnapped.
Ant watched from his kerb and
thought about walking over to apologise to Myra, but couldn't find the bravado
within him. At the same time Myra looked at Ant and thought about berating him.
But she had the same bravado problem as the boy, and so instead stayed with her
daughter, squeezing her so hard that Edie had to tell her to stop as it was
beginning to hurt.
Over the next two or three days Myra lived in the hospital
with Edie, only returning home to gather books, magazines and soft toys for her
daughter. Each time she went home, not five minutes after she walked in the
door, a well wishing neighbour would come by with a casserole, or a pie. It was
as if every retired couple, or stay-at-home mother, in the street kept both a
meal in the oven and a constant watch on the Miller's house, until the
opportunity to be a good Samaritan presented itself.
always tried to refuse offers of baked kindness, telling the bearer that enough
had been done for her family already. But despite such attempts at rebuttal,
Myra would more often than not end up having to find freezer space for a large
casserole dish. Consequently she had almost a year of donated meals and
neighbourhood friendliness. Edie's accident had been preceded nine months
earlier Myra's husband, Dan, leaving after a string of extremely vocal fights.
Myra has since learned that there are no better causes for local concern than
an incident involving a child and a newly single mother.
The arguments that caused the
split mainly involved Dan's job and the amount of unpaid sick time he was
spending away from it; his smoking in the house; and his family, who saw
nothing wrong with telling Myra to give up being a primary school teacher so as
to claim more money from the government. Tension between the couple was
increasing daily, and the final argument came when Myra snapped at Dan for
telling what he thought were cheeky racist jokes around Edie at dinner one
Myra had sent Edie upstairs to
her room, screamed at Dan for a good few minutes and started crying when he
"Calm down. It's just a bit of
She then told him that he'd be
staying on the couch that night, leaving in the morning, and went to bed. That
night she heard Dan leave the house at about eleven and next saw him three
weeks later, when he came over to get his power tools from their once-shared
garage. They spoke briefly about the logistics of their split, and how often
Dan would see Edie.
At the end of their conversation
Dan told her that he'd moved in with the woman he'd been seeing for the past
few months. Myra shook her head and walked back indoors. She spoke to Edie at length
about how much of a bastard Dan had been and how she knew that she never should
of married him, after he had proposed exactly three hours after finding out
that Myra was pregnant.
Three days after finding out about Dan's affair Myra went to
church for the first time since she got married. She found herself to be apathetic
towards the readings and the sermon, but pleased to be in such well-meaning
company. Afterwards she spoke to the vicar who asked the right questions and
eventually convinced her to go again the next week. He said regular attendance
could help her heal, despite her uncertainty about faith. She made a joke about
church being cheaper than therapy, but the vicar didn't laugh.
then Myra had been a church regular. On the weekends when she has Edie, Myra
would ask her to come along. Edie did go couple of times, but constantly
complained about the uncomfortable seats and how she found church boring. Myra
offered Sunday School as an alternative, but Edie asked if she could instead be
dropped off at her grandparent's house before church and picked up again after.
She didn't much enjoy going to her grandparent's house, but they had a sofa, a
TV and usually gave her cake.
a few months of weekly church going Edie said to Myra:
dear. I am. Would you like to be one too?”
Edie said, and walked away from her mother, a little confused as to when she
crossed over from non-Christian to Christian, and wondering if she had to pay
to be one.
Edie and Myra are sitting together in the hospital canteen;
Myra on a moulded plastic seat, attached to the table with a metal arm, and
Edie at the end of the table in her wheelchair. Both have a tray in front of
them - after Edie had insisted on having her own - with a can of Diet Coke, a
small green salad and a large, chocolate chip cookie. The canteen is maybe a
third full; mainly elderly patients with younger relatives drinking weak tea
and diverting conversation away from why they are in a hospital canteen in the
first place. Edie is wearing her favourite pink, with yellow polka dot pyjamas
and a lilac dressing gown.
What d'you want to do when you're out?”
dunno...zoo?” says Edie, between crunching on a mouthful of lettuce.
that's what you want”
going to get a napkin,” says Edie as she grabs the steel handrims on the
wheelchair. She moves backwards away from the table and turns with some
difficulty to face the self-service station where the napkins are. When she
pushes the chair forward the waistband on her dressing gown gets caught and the
left wheel jars.
she shouts, as the chair turns and abruptly stops.
Please!” snaps Myra, who then shakes her head, massages her temples and looks
up at the yellowing, tiled ceiling.