AIDS was… an illness in stages, a very long flight of steps that led assuredly to death, but whose every step represented a unique apprenticeship. It was a disease that gave death time to live and its victims time to die, time to discover time, and in the end to discover life.~ Hervé Guibert
Surprises and Excitement
Continued from… Reading Isaac’s words (7)
For two days, Isaac slept most of the time.
On the first of these afternoons, Annie fell asleep in the chair next to Isaac’s bed, and slept for a couple of hours. During the evening visiting hours, Isaac didn’t say much either. Both evenings, he fell asleep even before Annie and her family left to go home.
When Annie later looked back on these two days, she thought Isaac might have reached a turning point then. He was a changed man when she walked into his room on the Friday afternoon after she had completed her second week at her new job. Isaac wasn’t in bed when she walked in, but sitting in the chair, reading a magazine.
“You’re up,” Annie said in surprise when she walked in.
“Yes, I don’t want to be in bed anymore,” Isaac smiled. “It’s wonderful sitting in the chair.”
“It’s wonderful seeing you in the chair,” Annie smiled back and gave Isaac a hug. “I’m so glad you’re feeling better!”
“Annie, I have to apologize for the outburst on …” Isaac stopped when Annie held up her hand.
“I understand, my friend. It’s okay.”
It was quiet for a while, but not uncomfortably so. Both of them felt the special bond between them.
“That sexy guy is on duty again today,” Isaac winked.
“Oh Isaac, you really are terrible!”
Isaac gave Annie a stern look, pretending to be angry.
“Am I not even allowed to look anymore?”
When Annie didn’t know how to react, he laughed out loud. All Annie could do was to join him in laughter.
Isaac was still in the chair when Isaac’s favorite nurse came into the room for Isaac’s daily injection. Annie just smiled when she noticed Isaac stretching a leg and theatrically opening his gown to expose part of his buttock to the nurse. Her smile widened when the nurse winked at Isaac.
It was Saturday, the fifth day of December, and they had woken up to snow. This day was also the day on which the Dutch people traditionally celebrate Sinterklaas. Since Priscilla would be with them only the next day, that was when all the children would unpack their gifts. That evening they all went to visit Isaac, including Joe, Myra and Sylvana. Annie and the kids had made a traditional Sinterklaas poem for Isaac and they had a small present for him.
However, when they walked into his room, he was the one who had a bigger surprise for them. Isaac wasn’t in the room. In that split second, with all of them looking at the empty bed — each with their own thoughts — Isaac appeared behind them. They only noticed him when he spoke.
“Hello everyone, what are you looking at?”
“Isaac,” Annie exclaimed. “Where have you been?”
“Don’t panic, dear! I went for a walk.”
“Where’s your catheter?” Annie’s mom asked.
“They took it out this morning. My fever is down too! Maybe I can go home with you,” Isaac laughed.
“I am afraid it’s too early for that,” a nurse, who had followed Isaac, said. “We’re optimistic about your progress, but we should take it one day at a time. We don’t want you to get sick again, so we have to make sure the fever doesn’t return. Let’s first see how you handle food this evening,” she smiled, “and you have to go for a CT scan on Monday, because the doctors want to be sure the infection is gone.”
Even though Isaac was disappointed, he understood the reasons he had to stay. He didn’t want to get ill again and he would rather stay in hospital too long than leaving too early.
“So who is going to join me for a walk?” Isaac asked to break the silence that had fallen in after the nurse’s departure.
Eventually, everyone but Annie and her mom joined Isaac. The two women had a plan, which they could only execute with Isaac out of the way. Now that Isaac was out of bed, it was much easier to implement it.
When they were done, they went searching for the rest. They found them in the hall just outside the double doors that gave access to the ward. When Isaac saw Annie, he rushed over towards her.
“Annie, I just don’t understand the nurses here. This morning it snowed! For the first time in my life, I saw snow! I ran up and down the corridor, calling the nurses to come and watch the falling snow with me. But they didn’t want to come. I said it’s snowing, it’s snowing, and they just said yes, we know as if it didn’t interest them at all. I just don’t understand it. It is so beautiful!”
It was quiet for a moment, and then everyone but Isaac laughed.
“Oh dear Isaac,” Annie laughed, “you remind me so much of the first time I saw snow, just about a month after I came here. The nurses have all grown up here and to them snow is so normal, they have forgotten how beautiful it is. It’s hard to imagine, but many people over here even detest the snow, since it leaves such a mess when it melts. But,” she touched his arm when she saw his disappointed face, “I agree with you, the snow is beautiful. I love it when everything is white outside!”
Close to the end of visiting hours, they walked Isaac back to his room. Isaac and Annie were walking up front, and she noticed that despite his good spirits, he looked tired. He sat down on the side of the bed. Dangling his feet, he let his slippers fall from his feet. He grabbed the top pillow and wanted to prop it against the headrest of the bed, but then noticed a piece of colored paper sticking out from under the pillow.
Not seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces, he pulled out the gift with a poem attached to it. Isaac opened the piece of paper to read the poem. Sinterklaas poems always read like the old man himself wrote it and the poem itself usually hinted what the present could be.
For a moment, Isaac forgot about his visitors. He concentrated on reading the Dutch poem. Isaac could understand most of it, since his native language, Afrikaans, was closely related to Dutch. Therefore, he also clearly understood the last two sentences, which told him he would not receive the traditional chocolate letter, but a CD of a Dutch girl group. Isaac unwrapped his present. He had a big smile on his face when he at last noticed his visitors again.
“Look at what Sinterklaas brought me!” he grinned.
He was as happy as any child would be with their gifts in these days. The element of surprise made it even more special.
“Do you think it was really Sinterklaas who brought this to me?” Isaac asked doubtfully.
“Maybe it was,” Annie teased, “or maybe he sent one of his Zwarte Pieten!”
Isaac glanced over at the window. Annie could almost hear him think. Indeed, no one could’ve come in through the window, as the ward was on the sixth floor. Isaac looked back at Annie and then at her mom.
“Sinterklaas doesn’t really exist, right?”
Both the women shook their heads.
“It’s just so sweet. Do you think the nurses did this for all the patients in the ward?” Isaac asked.
It took a couple of moments before both Annie and her mom understood Isaac’s line of thinking. He didn’t realize the surprise came from them. Before they could reply to his question, Isaac spoke again.
“I don’t think the nurses did this. How could they know I wanted this CD? I have told none of them!”
Then they saw the growing realization in his eyes. He laughed.
“Oh, you two are really something. Now I know why you two stayed behind when we all went to the hallway. Thank you so much! All of you! Thank you!”
To be continued… Good News, Finally!
Note: This series is a rework of a self-published book (2009), rewritten for this blog, and in loving memory of a dear friend who suffered from and passed because of AIDS. Keep in mind this story happens in the late eighties and throughout the nineties. Names of characters have been changed to protect their privacy.
© Rebel’s Notes
Image from Pixabay