While driving home, I call my doctor to let him know he will receive a report from my medical exam at the end of the day. The busy bee is visiting patients, and I get his spouse on the phone. She is a nurse, and assists him in their practice. Him the curing realist, her the caring positivist. I cannot imagine a better team, that has helped us countless times as our little ones grew up. In tears, I explain to her the unfolding events. “I will try to book you an appointment at the hospital right away. And don’t dispair, breast cancer often can be cured.” she comforts me. “Let me get back to you later today.”
I burst into our house, into the arms of Aidan, and into yet another waterfall of tears. Our son Ian is at a horse competition with his friends. I’m grateful he isn’t at home. The emotions I feel are so overwhelming, I probably wouldn’t have been able to compose myself. Aidan prepares us a coffee and we sit down, unable to grasp what lays ahead of us. He took the rest of the day off and will drive to the seaside to pick up Lise. I cannot imagine spending those hours by myself in the house.
So I get into the passenger seat next to him. I always enjoy our rides together, a moment of calm and comfort to discuss whatever comes to mind. Traffic is horrible, the weather isn’t all that great either. “If those are our problems…” I think to myself. We discuss what to tell the children. As we don’t yet know the real story ourselves, we decide to wait, so not to upset them. My phone rings, it’s our doctor’s spouse, letting me know she booked me an appointment at the hospital on July 14. Six days to go, I don’t know how I will bridge those. “What about your visit to Star?” Aidan asks. “We can still go.” He’s right, at least let’s enjoy this part of the day. I text the stables where Star is boarded, letting them know we’ll arrive later than foreseen. Then I also text Lise we’ll be late, asking to excuse us with Hanne’s grandparents. I hope I’m not messing up their schedule, but I don’t have the energy to speak to them directly. I am facing a bigger problem than my dinner time being delayed. If they knew, I’m sure they’d understand. She answers right away: “No problem. How was your medical exam Beige?” Beige. She always calls me Beige, it’s part of her humor. I remember a waiter once raising his eyebrows, when the little girl at the table addressed me: “What are you having, Beige?” How does she remember to ask me about the medical exam? It was just a routine visit. She’s fourteen and with her friend at the beach. She is such a considerate girl, I love her so much. I text her back “I’m fine sweetie”. More tears.
We call my sister. She’s my best friend. Despite the physical distance between us since we have left the nest, we have always remained close. At a loss of words, she suggests we have dinner at their place. It will be quite a detour on our way back, but it will do us much good to see her. Ian will be at a barbecue till late, so we’ll pick him up at the end of the day.
Arriving at the stables, we greet the owner John as if this is just an ordinary day. I’m really glad we found him, because, like ourselves, he is genuinely kind to the horses. I rarely imposed myself on Star, rather trying to get her to do things based on winning her trust. As a result, she is a horse who didn’t have any bad experiences with humans. I hope this will be a solid base to further build on next year. As John leads us through the pastures, I can see Star from a long distance. She has grown again. I am stunned at her beauty and energy. She gallops towards us to greet us, and then sniffs our clothes. Even though I haven’t seen her in months, when I stretch out my arms towards her, she rests her head in them. We did this from a very young age. At that moment, there is no cancer, there’s just love.
When we park the car at the seaside, Lise and Hanne are already waiting for us, waving as we get out of the car. We greet them as if this is just an ordinary day. Walking towards the building, they enthusiastically talk about their adventures during the past couple of days.
We take the elevator up to the eighth floor. Stepping into the apartment, we greet Hanne’s grandparents as if this is just an ordinary day. I admire them. They are well into their seventies, and the teenage girls still look forward to staying with them. I express interest in whatever subject they bring up, hoping it is perceived as normal conversation. After half an hour, we take Lise’s bags, and say our goodbyes. I hope they didn’t find us rude to leave so quickly, even having refused a drink.
Back in the car, Lise starts talking. Aidan and I answer as lightly as we can manage. But she is mainly having a conversation by herself. One topic builds on the previous one, the world through the eyes of Lise. I’m so on the verge of tears. But I cannot do this to her. Not yet.
After more than an hour, we pull up in the driveway of my sister’s family. Lise’s two nephews are running to us, two happy boys. We give them a big cuddle as if this is just an ordinary day. Over dinner we are relieved to see the children engage in conversation, oblivious to us adults. Finally, finally, I find a moment to talk to my sister in private. Being the oldest sibling, I always considered it important for me to hold my ground. To be the one who can listen, and give a sensible advice. Not now, I don’t need to be strong.
We are just on our way home when Ian lets us know his barbecue has ended, and he’s mainly all by himself. We are still more than an hour out. I call our nanny, another happy-pretending moment as if this is just an ordinary day. She is a sort of grandma to our children. I don’t know how we would have managed without her during the busiest years of our life. As always, she is so sweet to drop whatever it is she is doing to go pick up Ian.
And then the dusk of the day settles in. No more pretending, just the comfort of Aidan driving, my sweet Adrian. It will be a long and sleepless night, but for now, I enjoy the silence that embraces us.