Seeing with new eyes
I have had a holiday.
A proper, leave your brain at the door along with your English money and your boots and jacket, holiday. Late summer Italian sunshine, still hot enough to need a hat and sunscreen. Bright blue skies and salty sea, warm enough for bathing. Lazing over coffee on the roof terrace overlooking the Adriatic, strolling through quiet streets of old polished stone, lingering in cafes and watching the world go by.
I went away for a whole five days and four nights, and Nick was fine and the sky did not fall in.
Just half an hour before leaving the house, I had been on the phone to the council about Nick’s broken door, trying to get a definite appointment and worried that the request for an urgent repair had somehow gone onto the back burner.
I spoke to a very jobsworthy sounding woman who said that inspectors would need to come and look at the door before any repairs could be done, and they would contact me in the week to arrange this.
I just felt despair as how could I swan off into the wide blue yonder when this was all unresolved and my brother was unsafe at home? I am the only one authorised to speak to the council on Nick’s behalf so what would happen if I wasn’t there?
After a lot of negotiation she finally agreed to let Simon deal with things in my absence and he fielded the whole situation with more grace and ease than I could possibly have managed. Except that even he could not work a miracle, and would you believe that the bloody thing is still not fixed – that’s almost two weeks from my first call for help – and the door is propped open with a Heath Robinson contraption of duck tape on the frame that has to be replaced every morning because Nick kicks and scuffs it as he goes past. Yes I know we could have got one of those child-proof door wedges but I had reported an emergency and been told it would be dealt with the same afternoon. It never occurred to me that we were going to have to wait all this time. It is still an accident waiting to happen, only somehow, miraculously it hasn’t happened yet.
I was still fretting when I arrived at Brindisi airport in the delicious heat of the evening with friends coming to pick me up. Even with Simon taking over, there were still so many things that could go wrong and God knows, I had good reason to worry.
But that is exactly why holidays are good for you. We all need to unwind and breathe some different air sometimes, empty our head of all the what ifs and fears, be another person if just for a short time so that we can go back into our lives and carry on – otherwise the pressure just becomes unsustainable.
With the help of two of my oldest, dearest friends and some Italian sunshine I actually let go of my worries, and I had forgotten what that felt like, just to let go of all that weight of responsibility.
When you're so responsible for another person, it takes a lot to step away.
And Nick is fine. I came back to him with a bag of Apulian pasta and some duty free wine and it is lovely to see him with new eyes and hear what he’s been up to. We’ve missed each other.
I can go back to my life, the appointment fixing and the dealing with the council and the carers and the neighbours and the bank balancing and the shit shovelling and the rationing of wine with a new spring in my step and a cheerful heart. Once again, I think how brilliantly and bravely my brother deals with his illness and appreciate the fact that we're together despite everything.
I feel rested and relieved, and very very lucky.