Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Exit Stage Left, Enter Stage Right

To Esme's delight, and everyone's astonishment, she was discharged from hospital this morning at 9am.

Eight hours later, following numerous visits by numerous nurses offering similar, sound advice; urgent phone calls to and from Denville Hall; a lesson in Not Mixing Drugs Up from the lovely Polish Staff nurse; and a lengthy, heartfelt blessing from Gloria, the evangelical black woman in the next bed (her plaster cast bore several Biblical references, and was signed by just about everybody short of God) - after all this, we get her out of the hospital.

It's a rainy, ordinary Monday night rush hour. In the car, though - my sister Hope and dear friend Tara, driving, in front, and myself and Esme under a tartan rug in the back - we are in high spirits. I hear Esme describe herself as 'euphoric' to a friend over the 'phone, and I know it's not just the drugs: we all are. This last weekend we've all shared a little handshake with death before running, giggling, out of the room. Heady stuff indeed.

After about an hour, and getting lost just a little, we find Denville Hall. We all fall in love. There is a large, older house and a modern wing seamlessly attached to it. The windows are glowing. It looks kind and warm. We find that it is.

A blonde, bustling woman in her fifties takes us up to Esme's room. As we near the lift, a small group of ageing actors drift out of the dining room and glide right by us.

Ah, now I know you, says Esme to a small woman with beady eyes. But I can't remember her name, she mutters to me, as if we were for all the world at one of the many First Nights we've attended together over the years. The two of them exchange smiles and give one another equally royal little waves.

I watch with love as Esme walks unaided, slowly and proudly, into the waiting lift. I feel a piece of the tension in my back, lodged like ice between my shoulder blades for weeks now, begin to slide towards the floor. For the first night in a long while I know I won't be worrying about my mother.

Esme is among her own.

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