It is a year, a whole year, since Julie had to spend a night in hospital. She remained a day patient right up until a few months ago, but for the last 12 months she has slept in her own bed, and has not slept at the hospital.
How resilient the young are! Julie was surprised when I pointed this anniversary out to her: surprised and a little dismissive. She has already forgotten her shuttling, nomadic existence last spring when weeks at home would be interspersed with weeks back inside the hospital. She has forgotten the monotonous journeys, the charts, the meetings, the phone calls, forgotten the tiny triumphs of leaving the safety of the hospital for a night, and the disappointment of having to return to it, temporarily beaten.
Thank goodness she has forgotten! And I, though I remember more, am fast forgetting how it felt: I have almost forgotten, for example, the particular gut-wrenching dread of the phone that rang in the middle of the night. Much of the anxiety, fear and anger is fading fast away. I bump into staff who treated her in those two horrible years of hospital care, and I no longer try to avoid them – I can greet them with an open welcoming face. (Well most of them: those that were kind and meant well.)
Some things are harder to erase, and perhaps erasure is not what we want. There are some things that maybe we should occasionally remember, if we are ever to move on from them, to exorcise them. Going further back in time, to the year before the last one, Julie spent a year entirely in hospital with rare visits home; and this was a very dark period. There are things we sometimes bring out and roll around between us, Julie and I, delicately dissecting them, exploring them like a tongue a missing tooth. We cannot make sense of them alone because neither of us knew completely what was happening. She tells me in pieces her experiences, the staff, the other patients, I tell her some of what the doctors told me, what it felt like on the outside, how I loved her and missed her.
But we bring these memories out only when we want to now; they do not hijack our days and intrude where we do not want them. Not this week for sure, when there is more to celebrate: because we are about to go away on our first family holiday in three years! We tried and failed repeatedly to arrange holidays during those years, but Julie’s illness (and the hospital’s response to it) was too unpredictable: there would be another crisis, another change of hospital leave policy, a sudden change of medication. Now she is free, and we are free, to travel as a family again.