last night. I had spoken to my sister who lives nearby earlier in the evening. My brother and other sister would only ring that late if it was an emergency as it is even later for them.
I knew it would not be good news. It was not. A friend said, "Is it too late to ring? R had a stroke today."
Oh. The news was not in itself that surprising. R is 85 and in poor health. She lives with a cousin who is twenty years younger - each is the only family the other has. We are "substitute family" for them and have been for many years. They would collect my nephews from school. They took my parents to medical appointments when they were not able to drive for medical reasons. My parents reciprocated. My father put up shelves for them.
Over the past few years R's health has been increasingly uncertain. Her younger cousin and I have been watching. Lately R's behaviour has been somewhat erratic and uncertain. The towels have not been hung on the line "the right way". "That is not "X" street. It is "Y" street. I don't care what it says. They have it wrong." "You can't get a paper now. The shop isn't open." (It was 10am on a Thursday morning.)
She phoned me recently and told me I "must not wash my hair in anything other than goat's milk".
Her younger cousin has been coping with this for a considerable time now. R seemed to "behave" in the presence of her GP. He has been having difficulty getting the information he told her cousin he needed - although he sensed there was a problem. He is also my GP and, knowing this, the last time I saw him I mentioned I had just seen her and that she had made the comment about buying the newspaper. He, rightly, did not discuss her state of health with me but he brought her notes up and added one of his own with a "thanks for that information". There was no need for either of us to say more. I knew it would add to the overall picture. That was all he needed.
So, yesterday morning she "felt dizzy" while she was showering. She managed to call out to her younger cousin before collapsing. An ambulance came quickly. They called a second ambulance.
Hours later her younger cousin left the hospital and phoned us when she arrived home. She had nothing but praise for the ambulance staff and I could reassure her about the way the hospital was handling things. The unit has an excellent reputation.
We all know the outcome is uncertain. If the phone rang again now I would not be surprised.
When last night's conversation was over however my father said to me,
"I'm so glad she felt she could ring us. Family is just so important."