Home > A Curve in the Road(7)

A Curve in the Road(7)
Author: Julianne MacLean

I’ve been in this situation many times but never with a loved one of my own. I don’t know what to do. I’m choking.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what I do. Nothing can change the fact that my husband is not going to make it to the QEII for surgery tonight. He’s not even going to make it out of this ER.

The thought of losing him is excruciating. I don’t want to face this. I continue to turn away.

Eventually, all the sounds of rapid activity slow to a halt. Total silence descends upon the room.

Dr. Sanders begins to speak in a somber voice, and I double over in agony as he finally calls the time of death.

CHAPTER SEVEN

My husband is gone.

Tears roll down my cheeks as I watch the medical team shut off the machines. Slowly, with an air of defeat, they roll them away from the bed.

A nurse quietly removes the tube from Alan’s throat while another peels the defibrillator pads from his chest and respectfully covers him with a blanket. No one speaks a word.

I can’t think or breathe or move, and my body is numb. How can I accept that it’s my beloved husband lying on the table, dead?

And Zack . . . oh God, Zack . . . he just lost his father. I can’t bear to think about what this will do to him. Our happy family has been decimated. It can’t be real.

This morning started out perfectly normal. Alan was fine when he ate breakfast and left for the clinic.

Please, let this be a nightmare . . . I’ll go home soon, and everything will be okay. Alan will be there, sitting on the sofa, waiting for me, and our lives will be just as they were before.

I realize Dr. Sanders is standing beside me. He lays a hand on my shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Abbie.”

I wipe the tears from my cheeks and nod my head to acknowledge his kind words of sympathy, but still, I can’t seem to move from my spot on the floor.

The other members of the medical team express their sympathies as well, and one by one, they walk out. Nurse June is the last to leave.

“Take as much time as you need,” she says as she passes by.

I thank her. Then I am left alone in the quiet room, besieged by death and unfathomable misery.

I take a moment to prepare myself for what must be done, because I can’t stand here forever. I have to take this time to say goodbye to my husband before breaking the news to my son.

More tears pool in my eyes and stream down my cheeks. I wipe them roughly from my neck and taste their salty wetness on my lips. My body shudders with each breath.

Swallowing hard over the jagged lump in my throat, I force myself to take a few steps forward and look down at Alan’s bruised and bloodied face. I run my fingers along his bare arm and stand at his side for ten minutes, maybe more. I have no idea. Then the sobs come like a tidal wave, and I bend over him, lay my cheek on his chest, and cry inconsolably for what feels like hours, pleading for him to wake up because I can’t bear the thought of living without him.

Eventually, I draw back and look down at his face again. His flesh is pallid, and his lips are blue. There is no life left in him. He can’t speak or explain why this god-awful thing happened, which causes yet another emotional upheaval in me. My heart hammers in my chest, and piping hot anger ripples down my spine. Right now, we should be at home in our pajamas, settling down to watch television after cheering for Zack at his hockey game.

I imagine us there, and my breathing becomes ragged, because future happiness like that has been stolen from me. It’ll never happen again, but I want it so badly—to be curling up on the sofa with Alan beside me, each of us relaxed and content. It feels impossible that I’ll ever be relaxed or content again. Alan is dead. I’m a widow. My son is fatherless. The grief is overpowering.

I hear a sound and turn to see my mother standing in the doorway, staring at me with a look of anguish. She walks toward me, and I step into her arms.

“He’s gone,” I say.

“I know, sweetheart. I’m so sorry.”

She holds me tight and rubs my back and strokes my hair. We sob and cry together.

Eventually, we step apart, and I look down at Alan again and wonder how in the world I’m going to explain this to Zack. He was so close to his father. They did everything together. How will I find the words to tell him that his life will never be the same?

This quadruples my agony.

Meanwhile, Alan’s own father is on the other side of the country. I’ll have to call him as well. And Alan’s colleagues at the hospital. They’ll be shocked. He probably has patients to see in the morning whose appointments will need to be canceled.

Oh God, why am I thinking about such stupid practicalities? What is wrong with me?

“I feel overwhelmed,” I say to my mom, “like I’m suffocating. I don’t know what to do. He can’t be dead. Mom, what do I do?”

“I’ll help you,” she says, trying to calm me. She takes hold of my shoulders and looks me in the eye. “I’ve been through this before. I know what you’re feeling.”

I reach for her hand and squeeze it.

“I need to call Zack,” I add, “but he’s home alone. Do I tell him over the phone? I can’t do that, Mom. I should go there. I need to tell him in person.” I feel rattled, confused, and flustered. My eyes dart around wildly. “But my car is totaled. Can I take yours? Or I could call a cab.”

“No, Abbie,” she firmly says. “It’s freezing rain out there. The roads are like skating rinks. You can’t risk getting in another accident. Zack can’t lose both parents tonight.”

I cover my face with my hands. “This isn’t happening.”

“Do you want me to call him?”

“No,” I reply. “I need to do it. He needs to hear it from me, but I can’t do it over the phone. I want to be there with him when he finds out. Maybe I could call and tell him we need to stay here overnight because of the storm. Then I can go home in the morning and tell him in person.” I consider that for a few frenzied, chaotic seconds. Then I shake my head. “No. I can’t lie to him—especially because there were news vans at the accident site. I can’t let him find out that way. I have to tell him tonight.”

“Is there anyone you can call to go over there and be with him?”

I consider that as well. “I can call Jeremy’s parents. They live a block away, and they’re like a second set of parents to him.”

I look back down at Alan and feel another stab of grief in my heart. My husband . . . how will I survive without him? And how is Zack going to cope with this loss?

Swallowing heavily over the painful emotions lodged in my throat, I bend forward and lay a soft kiss on Alan’s cheek, then gently unclasp his watch, which was a gift from me on our tenth wedding anniversary. He had worn it every day since. I slip it into my pocket and force myself to step back.

“We need to go,” I say to my mother, because I have no other choice. As much as I want to stay here and never leave Alan’s side, Zack needs me. “I have to call Jeremy’s parents . . . and Zack. And then Alan’s father.”

We walk out together and back to my bed in the ER, but I feel suddenly nauseated. “I need some air. Just give me a minute.”

I turn away from her and head to the main entrance, where the sliding glass doors open in front of me. The bitter-cold air strikes me in the face, but I welcome the shock of it because I need to wake up from this daze I’m in. Standing under the overhang in the glare of the bright spotlights, I listen to the crackling sound of the freezing rain as it batters the ground. The whole world is cloaked in ice—the pavement, the naked tree branches, and all the parked cars in the lot. It hardly seems real. None of this does.

I begin to shiver, so I hurry back inside the hospital.

As I limp back to my bed in the ER, I realize that Winston still hasn’t been found, I haven’t gotten the stitches I’ve been waiting for, and my head is pounding. The nausea hasn’t passed, and my stomach turns, so I dash to the nearest washroom, where I expel the contents of my stomach and grimace at the pain in my head and heart.

I’m probably concussed. Or maybe it’s just the emotional effects of this horrendous ordeal.

A few minutes later, after I rinse out my mouth and splash water on my face, I look at myself in the mirror and recoil at my ghastly reflection. I haven’t seen myself since the accident. My eyes are puffy from crying, and my face is bruised, bloody, and swollen. My hair is caked in blood. But I don’t care what I look like—my husband is dead.

I want to cry again, to sob like a baby, but I smother the urge because I need to stay strong for Zack and make it through my phone call to him, and then I’ll have to somehow endure the next few days. Somehow, I’ll have to endure the rest of my life without Alan.

My skull throbs as I open the washroom door and return to my bed. I push back the privacy curtain and find my mother sitting in the chair, wringing her hands together in her lap. She takes one look at me and frowns, then quickly rises and comes over to me.

“Abbie. You need to get off your feet before you collapse.”

I allow her to help me onto the bed, where I lay my head on the pillows and close my eyes for a moment or two. I still feel nauseated. My body trembles.

“You’ve been through so much,” Mom says, stroking my hair away from my face.

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