I was reminded of this again, last night, when I saw what he carried home, proceeded to put together, and got working.
But, to start at the beginning of the whole palaver, let me take you back to January ’06 (if I can bear it!). Fortuitously, two months before Lucy joined us.
I can’t remember the exact date but, anyway, it was typical of all that is that month in this country (the UK). Ergo: not Christmas or anything else good; dark and gloomy; freezing cold; scary (as is, to me, all winter, i.e. hypothermia/gas explosions), and too long.
A bad time. And with bad SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Bad.
It was a Thursday. I do remember that, because Tom was forced to take the day off work. Six a.m. Not even dawn. Very eery.
And definitely not a time for someone with MS to be awake. But this is me. And I’ve spent years living independently (that is, many without another adult) and as a mother. As protector. Always on the look-out for danger.
The lights went out and I knew it. Perhaps it was just a light-bulb (we have one of those perilous safety set-ups whereby if one goes they all go – necessitating a trip to the fuse-box (cupboard-under-stairs) with a torch. (Great if, like me once, you’re on the loo when it happens, need to hold on to furniture to walk and didn’t actually take the torch with you! Very well thought-out for the disabled.))
I sat on the commode (MS joke!) in order to ponder this. I pretended. But in truth, it was obvious: no lights; no de-humidifier humming; nobody reading the Bible on TV [Sky 0134]. POWER CUT!
Power off. Panic most definitely on.
I must have sounded like a wild animal brought down by the hunter’s bullet.
And now I needed Tom.
I needed coffee (if I must be forced awake), warmth. Help. My head was vibrating, pulsating, stretching, shrinking, shivering, screaming.
Oh God (desperate prayer), why have you deserted me?
Get thee behind us S----! What is this un-Godly hour?
Anyone without MS won’t understand this but there’s something very horrible about the state of the lesioned brain without enough sleep.
And to a crippled, spastic body, the cold is unbearable.
Suddenly, madness, death, both are very real possibilities. And maybe preferable to the enormous effort it’s going to take to try to survive. It may well be easier to give up.
There and then, everything physical about you longs for that.
I grabbed the torch and “did” the cupboard, pointlessly, at the same time as banging and yelling for Tom. I was beside myself.
And he got up.
And put me back to bed wrapped in the swaddling-clothes of quilt after quilt and another sleeping-bag on top of the one I sleep in.
Then, oh mercy - and thank God I had the sense to get it - he put the Calor Gas heater on, turned it towards me and went to get dressed. Somewhere in the middle of all that he also managed to ring EDF and the council, who –it has to be said were (responsible?) most helpful. Yes, there was a problem. Was it everywhere (i.e.whole borough)? No, just your strreet. It would probably be off (electricity) till the afternoon. Sorry.
Just our street? Till afternoon? The poor wild animal needed putting out of its misery.Hypothermia would set in soon.
And next: genius! Tom went to the cafè to get take-away coffee. I couldn’t believe it. I’d never have thought of that. But Tom is an aficionado of local "cafs." and off he went, perfectly confident, and totally in charge! I was, and am still, so proud of him – for all this.
I had a ciigarette and saw through drawn curtains the sky turn from black to grey. It was not a cheerful shift of ambience, but the heater and candles (like magic!) gave a comforting glow - at least in this room (sitting-room where bed is). And soon it actually felt warm.
After a few minutes, the conquering hero returned and brought with him: two styrofoam cups of hot coffee, and, AND, ANND, a flask of boiled water. What brilliance! What foresight! What empathy... Apparently, I could have coffee and my usual herbal remedies, regardless.
Oh, how could anyone feel bad after that?
He brought everything to me (I was still huddled up on bed) and, as the hours wore on, we entertained ourselves with the “meter’s-run-out-of money” games we used to play, when he was young and before DLA (spare more thoughts for single parents – it’s very hard). It was quite cozy!
And by early afternoon – after "caf." food for him (he might have been enjoying this!) and crisps and biscuits for me – even I could wander about a bit (i.e. visit the bathroom/tidy up in the kitchen). The whole flat was warmer and there was a kind-of “we’re making it” aroma of gas and melted wax around the place. It was all right.
But it did start to get dark again and there were more worried ‘phone calls (though Tom had seen the men down the hole in the road so knew something was being done!).
It was eight whole hours after the first no-electric shock that suddenly all the lights came on again, the de-humidifier shook into life and the Gospel of John came out from the TV.
And the b----y council – or was it EDF? I’ll check – rang to apologise for all the inconvenience!
Well, I knew I could sue them. I knew I would have died without Tom. But, what can you do? I had to be grateful for my life and my son. So I offered it all up for anyone else who was cold (“Please God, look after the homeless.”) and asked Jesus to help us get on.
And He did. And I did. But didn’t forget it, and my fear of winter has increased. Plus, I am even less able than I was then. And Tom wants to leave.
So I looked into further means of self-sufficiency and got: a SURVIVAL KIT! From the Army.
And that’s what Tom brought home last night – all the way from his place of work where it was delivered (I can’t get to the door!). By foot and train and foot again!
A big, heavy box, containing a gas (cartridge) lamp, heater and cooker. As well as some toilet-tray pads for Lucy and herbal carpet shampoo for Lucy’s – accidental – stains.
And then he got them all working (except the shampoo - that will have to wait till Lucy’s out (groomer's not pub!) to give enough hours for drying).
And the kit is amazing: lovely little blue-orange flames providing light, heat, and coffee/food/hot-water-bottles. Survival!
So, at last, even though it is bleak, dreary winter, I can sleep at night. If I can still get up at all I should be able to keep myself alive and also, therefore, Lucy.
A bit longer anyway.
Tom is such a hero!