• Stephanie Hammond

Looking for a way forward ...

When you’re drowning, they say, your life plays out in front of your eyes. I wasn’t drowning but my life was changing. Our lives were all changing. During the short drive from the bus to the hospital, I saw flashes of the last four years as if on the big screen.

We’d been dating for a couple of months, enjoying the movies or walks. Mostly he’d ride his bicycle the few miles to our place and we’d sit on the back steps talking and laughing. He won me because he made me laugh. There wasn’t a lot of laughter in my soul at the time.

The night we finally did “it” I must have got pregnant. He was supportive, excited really. His big brother encouraged him to offer to pay for an abortion. When I refused, he was pleased. He wanted us to get married, to be a real family.

He and my brother were best mates, Mum loved him too, as did my little sister. No problems there. And he loved them too. He was really family oriented. It hurt him that I didn’t know my dad anymore. When my brother joined the army, he found out dad was still working for the army, as a painter. He arranged to meet him at the pub, determined to “punch out his lights” for the way he’d abandoned us. He came back full of the truth about how mum had never let him see us and he never knew where we lived. They kept in touch, became good mates. He gave me dad’s address and assured me I’d be welcome. My husband was excited and he took me and our little one to visit him. I’m forever grateful that he did. My little family had the joy of spending time with my father, who stayed a firm favourite with them all.

Being married didn’t change his love. As my second daughter said, he was trying to be everything to everyone, including himself. Now, as I got out of the car in front of the hospital, I prayed he’d be ok, that I’d get a chance to share all those lovely thoughts I’d had as the bus brought me along the highway. But I was afraid and I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel I’d felt sucked into. How was I going to smile when I saw him? I was so afraid.

The doctor met me in the corridor of the ward. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “We did all we could, but he’s just passed away.”

Words can’t express the pain I felt. Tears flowed and I sank to the floor. They wouldn’t let me see him, afraid I’d really collapse. They gave me a room for the night and told me they’d told his parents and my father-in-law would arrive in the morning.

Through the numbness, questions kept my mind going round in circles. How was I going to cope? What about my little girls! Fatherless, like I’d been, just what I’d promised wouldn’t happen to them. What will we do? What will become of us?

As I lay there in the bed lit from the lights in the hall, I sobbed and I prayed. The jacarandas came back to my mind. Symbols of hope. One day at a time, that’s how. We’ll be looked after. I’ll know what to do. One day at a time. Finally, exhausted, I fell asleep.

(Photo by Madison Grooms on Unsplash )

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