When the ambulance pulls up, Jerry is still stomping around the house. He’s tugging at his clothes, but so far I’ve been able to keep him mostly dressed. He’s been acting confused and irritated for several hours, and as much as I was hoping we could keep him here at home, rather than back at the hospital, I guess it’s just not meant to be.
Two paramedics appear at the kitchen door. This startles me at first, and then I remember that when I’d called for an ambulance I asked them to come around to the side of the house, where there was more room to maneuver the gurney. I don’t even want to think about how they will make their way back down the 23 winding steps to the street.
I watch as they push the gurney into the kitchen, leaving the door open. As I start talking with them I catch sight of Lilly, our cat. She darts in through the door and disappears in the general direction of Emilee’s bedroom.
The paramedics slowly approach Jerry, who is flailing his arms around and talking to himself. Though they remain calm and ask me a variety of questions, I think they are physically bracing themselves for a struggle. Jerry clearly does not want to lay down. I try to reason with him, but I’m interrupted by Emilee’s scream.
“Mommy! Lilly is getting Barney!”
I turn around and see Em racing to Barney’s cage just as Lilly pounces on it. Feathers are flying, and I imagine Barney’s little heart pounding right out of his chest. I grab Lilly and set her outside the French doors. I hug my crying daughter, and turn to see Jerry as he is being rolled out of the house, yelling and cussing.
“We’ll meet you at the hospital,” a paramedic says over his shoulder.
For a minute I just stand there, too numb to move. I don’t want to go. I want to sleep. When was the last time I slept? I reassure Em that her parakeet is okay, I close up our house on the hill, and we make our way down the steps to our old Pontiac. We’ll follow the ambulance to the hospital, some 20 miles away.
As we start to pull out from the curb I spot our dog, Cheyenne, up on the roof of the house. It’s the flat part of the roof, above the kitchen. She’s standing close to the edge, looking down at us and barking. How did she get up there? Is she stuck? Should I stop the car and help her?
Poor Cheyenne. The other night I heard her whimpering outside the kitchen door, and when I opened it there she was, her face practically dripping with skunk spray. Her eyes seemed to say, “Just kill me now.” I led her to the patio, where Em and I rubbed her down with all the canned tomato products we could find. The skunk smell was overwhelming, especially for our little hamster, Scooby, who didn’t make it through the night. I haven’t yet had the heart – or the strength – to break the news to Em. Good grief.
The ambulance is already down the street and around the corner. I want to stay close to it, close to Jerry, so I leave Cheyenne on the roof and we take off. At first I’m able to keep up with the ambulance, but once we get onto the highway it speeds up and pulls away. I slow down. Oh, Jerry.
Em is sitting next to me, hugging her stuffed animal, Kitty, and crying. I wish I could offer her words of comfort, but there are none, really. I know what’s coming, and maybe she does, too. A sob escapes me and I inhale a shaky breath. Is this really happening?
Okay, concentrate. Foot on pedal, steer, blink away the tears, and try not to think about what’s next.
As we make our way down the highway, I notice the whitecaps on the bay to our left, and the ocean beyond. The clouds are dark and low. It seems like just another day here on the coast, but it isn’t, is it? This might be the day. My mind begins to wander and I see vivid images of Jerry, of us, and our time together. Bittersweet memories are crowding my mind for attention, so I press down on the pedal and I let them in.