Home > My Life in Shambles(4)

My Life in Shambles(4)
Author: Karina Halle

“Then ye need to come here as soon as ye can,” she says, her voice back to being stern and commanding. “He needs ye.”

I almost laugh at that. My father has never needed me.

“I’ve got a few doctor’s appointments still,” I lie. I do have one, in fact. I should be heading to the hospital right now, but I need to buy myself some time. “I can come up the day after tomorrow.”

She sighs, and even in her sigh I hear the change from frustration to concern, as if she just remembered the whole reason I’m available right now and not playing rugby is because I’ve been out with a concussion for the last six weeks. “How are ye doing? How’s the head?”

“The head is fine,” I tell her. Aside from the brain fog and some bouts of vertigo I’m getting from time to time, I’m feeling better. What I’m hoping for today is for the doctor to tell me I can get back to the game. The team hasn’t been the same without me and I haven’t been the same without the game.

“That was a nasty tumble ye took,” she says. “I worry about you more and more.”

“Please, Nana, you know I’m not who ye should be worrying about right now.”

Another sigh. “Okay. Come up in a few days. Just … be prepared to stay awhile. Please. For me. For your father. We both need you around, and since you’re not playing yet, ye ought to stay here in Shambles as long as ye can.”

I swallow hard, already dreading what’s to come. “Okay.”

“Happy New Year, Padraig.”

“Happy New Year, Nana.”

I hang up the phone and take in a deep breath, trying to steady my heart that’s racing out of control. If I stop and think about what she said, it’ll only get worse. I have an appointment to get to, and I need to stay focused on that.

Not on my father.

Not on the things that happen between us every time I set foot in my hometown of Shambles.

Not what might happen the day after tomorrow, when I have to face his disappointment and at the same time face the fact that I might lose him.

I get in my car and drive out to the hospital, the traffic thick even at noon. With it being December thirty-first, everyone is getting ready for the night. That, coupled with the threat of snow, and Dublin is like a madhouse.

I guess I should be grateful that I’m even allowed to drive. For the first two weeks following the injury, my license was taken away and I had to take a cab everywhere. It wasn’t that big of a deal considering I often take cabs if I don’t have to drive, especially if I’m just going to places within the city, but it felt like my freedom had been taken away.

It didn’t help that it was such a stupid injury to begin with. One minute I had the ball and was running to get across the advantage line, my eagle eyes scanning for my best option, the next I started to get double vision, my gait faltering. I took a giant hit from the side and I think my opponent expected me to sidestep but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I didn’t even see him coming, which is very unlike me. Part of the reason why I’m such a good fly-half is because it’s like I have eyes in the back of my fucking head.

My neurologist, Dr. Byrne, has been seeing me since my first MRI. Normally the team always sees the same doctors for sprains and lacerations, but this was the first time I’d been sent to a neurologist.

“Padraig,” Dr. Byrne addresses me as he steps into his office where I’ve been waiting for the last five minutes. “Sorry about the wait. I know you probably want to get to your New Year’s Eve festivities pretty soon.”

Even though I have no plans, I don’t have to tell him that because there’s something in his eyes that tells me my plans would be spoiled anyway.

“It’s not a problem,” I tell him, feeling slightly more anxious now, my eyes going to the charts in his hand.

“And how is your father?” the doctor asks, sitting down at his desk.

I cough as I do when I get nervous. “I don’t think he’s doing too well. I have to go and see him on the second.”

“I see. Well, the offer still stands if he’d like to come to Dublin for treatment. Prostate cancer doesn’t have to be as hopeless as it’s made out to be. There are doctors that might be able to help him, new treatments that are still experimental but might work.”

“I’ll let him know,” I tell him. When I first started seeing the doctor, I’d mentioned my father had been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. Since my father used to play rugby for the Munster team, a lot of people know who he is and still take an interest in him. I’d then mentioned what the doctor had offered to my nan but I have a feeling my father turned it down. Until today, it seems, neither of them had thought it warranted it.

“But we’re not here to talk about your father,” the doctor says, putting the files to the side and folding his hands on the desk. “Can you tell me again about what happened on the day of the concussion? You had mentioned something about your vision and that’s why you didn’t see the guy coming.”

I hate being reminded of how I fucked everything up, but I soldier on. “Yeah. I was looking to pass and then everything went blurry and fuzzy for a moment, like I was seeing double, like I was drunk but a little, I don’t know, rougher than that. And then suddenly I was hit, was driven straight down, and my head hit the ground.”

“And had you had any problems with your vision before that?” he asked.

I shake my head. “With my eyes? No. Never. I’ve always had better than twenty-twenty vision. My role depends on it.”

“And now, how is it?”

“Fine. I had those problems a few days after the concussion, the same sort of thing, but it went away. In fact, aside from still feeling dizzy when I get up some mornings, perhaps a little shaky too, I feel pretty much one hundred percent. I mean, I think I could get back on the pitch and play.”

“That’s good,” he says, lips pressed together in a tight smile. “And with some luck on our side, I think you’ll be able to return to the game in some form, though I can’t say when at this time.”

I sigh, feeling defeated. I don’t know why I was expecting him to just give me a clean bill of health and let me get back to it, but I was. Motherfucking hope got me by the neck again.

“I know you’re disappointed, Padraig,” the doctor goes on. “But concussions are serious. To put you back in the game before you’re ready could be a big mistake.”

“But don’t the MRI results say that everything is fine?” I gesture to the files. “Isn’t that why you took them, to see the swelling, to give me an idea of what’s next?”

The doctor gives me that thin smile again and momentarily taps his fingers against the desk. “The thing is, Padraig, your concussion is gone.”

“Oh,” I say, sitting up straighter. “Well, why didn’t ye tell me that?”

“Because it’s no longer the issue.”

“What’s the issue?” I ask.

He licks his lips. “I have some suspicions. Some concerns that might be unrelated to the concussion. I think we’re going to have to run another MRI and have a closer look.”

A cold sinking feeling forms in my chest. “A closer look at what?”

The tight smile on the doctor’s face fades before he gives me his answer.



“This was a huge mistake,” I mumble into my hands, my eyes pinched shut.

Suddenly the carriage jerks to the left and my head goes conking into Angie’s.

“It’s an adventure!” Sandra squeals loudly.

“You call dying in a horse-drawn carriage an adventure?” I yell.

“You just said your New Year’s resolution was to say yes to new adventures,” Angie says. “Which I didn’t think would include this.”

By this, she means the fact that after a tour of the Guinness brewery here in Dublin, we decided to take a horse-drawn cart into the Temple Bar area where we planned to spend our New Year’s Eve. I just didn’t think the cart would be so tiny, the horse would go so fast, and that the sky would start dumping wet snow on us, making the carriage slip and slide in every direction.

“Actually, I believe Val’s resolution was just to say yes more, starting with saying yes to everything for the next few days,” Sandra says and then giggles as the cart rounds another corner, nearly taking out a car, and the three of us go banging into each other again like we’re on some sort of amusement park ride. My back is killing me, especially after the plane ride, but I manage to swallow down the pain.

“Since when do New Year’s resolutions start on the thirty-first?” I point out.

“Actually, I think your resolution started when you decided to come with us. Aren’t you glad you did?” Angie asks, squealing as the horse comes to a dramatic stop.

The three of us burst out laughing from relief and drunk from the Guinness (not the paltry samples, we hit up the bar in the factory after) and clamber out of the carriage. We profusely thank the grumpy driver for not killing us and I take a moment to make sure the horse is okay with all this, and then I tip the driver extra for the sake of the horse, even though tips aren’t common here. I tell him to spend it all on apples but I’m not sure he heard me.

The last twenty-four hours have been as crazy as this carriage ride. I wasn’t able to get a seat with my sisters but I was able to get on the same plane. I may have been a bit grumpy that I was back in coach and they were up in first class, sleeping away the flight with their beds and free champagne but it didn’t really matter.

The truth was, I didn’t sleep a wink on my flight and it had nothing to do with the screaming baby next to me or the upright seats.

I was too afraid. Now, I’ve always been afraid of this and that and what Sandra had said about me was true. But this was an honest to god legit fear which then bled into incessant worry.

Would I be able to freelance while I was there?

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