When my Mom phoned to let me know she had called an ambulance to bring my stepdad to the hospital, it was as if the world around me grew still, despite the fact that I was standing in the middle of a bustling Nathan Phillip’s Square in downtown Toronto at the very first Winter Festival being held there.
My husband, child and in-laws kept walking and I could see them pointing towards the ice skaters and, more excitedly, towards the Zamboni. But, my heart had sunk to my shoes and tears were streaming down my cheeks.
I didn’t want to spoil their moment, but I was feeling desperate. I just wanted to get away and be somewhere I could have a good cry. But, I didn’t want to scare my son.
I hung-up with my Mother and eventually rejoined my family. I explained what was going on to my husband while his parents entertained the kid. My gut instinct was to get in a plane and go be with my parents. However, this was very much complicated by the fact that our in-laws had flown all the way from New Zealand to be with us, we didn’t have any other vacation days (so I’d have to take a pay-loss), we were broke so I would have to borrow the money to go as it was, I and I have a 3-year old that I had to consider.
My husband calmed me and told me to just wait to hear some more news about what was going-on before I panicked too much.
It wasn’t until recently, when we moved-back to be with my parents, that I learned just how dire the situation was and just how terrified my parents had been. These are difficult things to convey over text or phone calls, I suppose.
When talking to my Mom in that week and a half, I was trying to discern from what she said and how she sounded whether, or not, they really needed me there.
After getting off the phone with her one evening I broke-down. When my husband came to see what was happening I sobbed “I hate feeling like I am waiting to get that nightmare call that we had better come now or it will be too late…”
My Stepdad had gone through 11 rounds of chemo for colon cancer, and this was the year after he had been flown to Ottawa for a triple bypass. Now, he was in hospital with sepsis and my Mother had said that they were struggling to keep his organs functioning.
I knew it was serious, but did not know how serious or how scared both of my parents were going-through this. I guess that’s a compliment to how well they handled it together. Still, I hate thinking that they had to go through it alone.
Once my Stepdad was out of the hospital, I said to my husband, through more sobbing one night: “I NEVER want to be in that position again. Having to ask my Mom to let me know when it got to the ‘you need to come now because he’s dying’ stage.”
I hated being in that position. I didn’t wan to wait until it was too late. I wanted to spend time with him while there was still time to spend. I wanted my son to be able to build memories of his grandparents of playing games, laughing over dinner, sharing ice cream treats and going for car rides and not just sitting in a hospital saying ‘goodbye’.
So, we made the decision to uproot our lives, and move home.
It was a decision that required a lot of sacrifice, and there are times I still can burst into tears when something I miss about our old home strikes or when my Son asks something like: “Can we go to the tick-tock park?” (A park we used to frequent behind city hall, where the large clock on old city hall, would chime on the hour).
But, the pain and the loss we experience over leaving the city that we all dearly loved pales in comparison to the pain and the loss we would feel if we had decided to stay and, instead, forfeited the time we now get to spend with family.
You just cannot put a price on that.
People say it all the time, but until you are staring it in the face it can be tough to comprehend;
life is short.
You have to look at what really matters to you and be prepared to move heaven and earth to make it happen.
It may be very difficult at times when we are missing our beloved city, but that is grief, not regret. I will never regret choosing time with my family over our life in the city.
We never know how much more time we have together. I’m determined to make the most of it.