Yesterday, first thing, there were paramedics in my bedroom. Jay's back has been flaring up a bit this week and and then yesterday he woke up in paralysing pain, completely unable to move. "Should I call somebody?" I said, expecting a curt "no" from the man who hates to admit he is ever unwell, hates ever to make any sort of fuss. Instead, he groaned "yes, of course you should call somebody," and I did - I called NHS direct, who asked me questions and then sent the ambulance.
A few days ago Jay and I were talking about whether or not he should be quitting his job to renovate a house. Now, fewer than 72 hours later, I was calling a friend, asking him to come straight away, throwing some clothes on my unshowered body and packing a bag of needful things for the hospital.
It turns out we didn't need to go to the hospital - not at that point, anyway. The paramedics gave him an injection of - I dunno, something - and told me how to arrange for a prescription of some stronger painkillers. We ended up at the hospital later that day for an X-ray, though, and I helped him into his hospital gown and wondered at how quickly his strong body had deteriorated.
The X-ray didn't find anything, which pretty much just means there's no fracture. He'll need an MRI and a ton of other stuff, of course. His GP, horrified by what she saw, tried to get the spinal surgeon to see him urgently but it didn't work, although it was gratifying to see a doctor so visibly shocked by his condition. It makes me feel a lot less guilty for how badly I'm coping with this whole situation. Most of us assume that, no matter how flaky we ordinarily are, we'd suddenly sort ourselves out if there was a real crisis. I'm sorry to report that this is not true - as I had feared, I'm terrible in a crisis. Yesterday I spent all day dropping things and panicking; I even got Jay's date of birth wrong when speaking to the paramedics. I also spent far too much time focusing on the fact that I hadn't been able to shower and berating the children for their troll-like behaviour. This is not helping! I screeched, repeatedly. Mummy needs to help Daddy! Stop biting each other and watch the television! It turns out they are terrible in a crisis too, but that is probably forgivable because unlike me they are four.
I'm glad to say that Jay is much more comfortable at the moment, largely because he's off his face on very high doses of drugs. It seems the short term immediate crisis has passed, and now we need to think about what happens next. He will see the spinal specialist next Friday. Hopefully this will mean proper medical imaging and a proper plan of action. I never thought I'd be pleased for my husband to have an appointment to have surgery on his back but right now it would be a huge relief.
Oh, Valentines' Day, you evil fiend. Did you ever make anybody happier? My little girl is just waking up to the presence of romance in the world. She saw some pairs figure skating on television and described it to me like this: Mummy, there was a man and a lady and they were doing ice sliding and I think they really, really wanted to get married. And then she smiled, embarrassed. She will be a sucker for Valentines' Day, just like I was. Am.
I don't want to tell her yet that love is not really like figure skating.
Love is helping my thirty-five-year-old husband walk down a hospital corridor, bent double, and love is stealing a wheelchair so he doesn't have to walk back.
Love is having ten minutes of down time, and being desperate to rest but drawing up a drug chart for him instead.
Love is a sincere Thank You from a husband who hates, hates, hates to be needy.
Love is the friend who comes over at seven am to look after two anxious, acting-out children.
Love is taking my boy on my lap and singing to him when I would rather do anything but, and love is the hug he gives me when he sees me crying.
Love is the online grocery order, the meal in the oven, the text that says I'm praying for you, the friend who watches my children at her house and then sends me home with dinner.
Love is even the kindness I give myself as I step into the shower, finally, choosing not to dwell on my failings but instead letting myself enjoy the respite, letting the water wash away my sorrow and my worry, at least for now.
Love is nothing like romance. Love is not made of red cardboard. Love is not a heart covered in sequins and glitter, pretty but disposable. Love is like a real human heart, messy and bloody and powerful.
This Valentines' Day, I may be short on romance but I realise that I am surrounded by love. Wherever and whoever you are, may you find love this Valentines' Day too - even in the most unexpected of places.