Five months ago, my mother-in-law fell down the stairs in the middle of the
night and shattered her skull, resulting in a devastating brain injury.
I keep imagining the sound her body made when it hit the hardwood floor of their old farmhouse: the sound that startled my father-in-law awake.
He rushed out of bed and found his wife, crumpled and broken, blood pooling around her head like a sickening pillow.
My husband found out the next morning. He rushed to fly across the country from our home in Surrey to their small Ontario community, leaving me alone with five kids: two of them our own and three of them a previously arranged babysitting gig for my sister-in-law.
“Please take care. I love you so much,” I said as our five-month-old son cried in my arms.
“I love you too,” he said, shoving his wallet in his back pocket as he leaned over to kiss me.
His eyes were full of panic caused by the horrifying moment in which we were caught and terror at the thought of what was yet to come.
Neither of us knew if his mom would still be alive when his plane landed.
Days after the event, my husband had called me with a deadened voice from the hospital, describing the stitches knitting together the gash in his mom’s head and the machines boxing in her body and her brain to keep her alive. That week, we decided to list our house in a fog of desperate need to leave and help.
Then, something incredible happened.
My husband’s mother began to heal at an astonishing rate. After only 60 days, she went from a medically induced coma somewhere between life and death to regaining speech, movement and memory at a shockingly quick speed. Every fibre of her refused to be compromised by injury.
As her prognosis became brilliant instead of bleak, we no longer felt compelled to return to Ontario, a place where neither of us wants to raise ourkids. But, we had started a process.
Two months after the fall, we had an offer on our house in Surrey we didn’t know if we should accept. A decision to be made.
We stared at the realtor in our living room, detailing the impossible sum of money our house was worth to someone. It seemed insane to turn it down.
Both of us had dreams that were impossible to fit in between making dinner for screaming children and commuting on roads crammed with cars.
I had a finished novel that I wanted to get into the world. My husband hoped to create a craft brewery that could connect a community. We both wanted to return to the mountains and live an outside life with our kids.
The realtor left and we sat down with a blank piece of paper and a beer after our kids were both tucked into their beds. We had three hours to make the decision. The realtor was waiting.
“Let’s just list some pros and cons of moving,” I said. Toronto, Perth, Sechelt, Vancouver, Nanaimo and Squamish.
The list was soon so overwhelmingly weighted to Squamish that I ran out of room for our scribbles.
“OK,” I said, looking at my husband closely.
“OK,” he said.
I picked up my phone and called the realtor.
One month later, it was moving day. Like just about everything when you have two kids under the age of four, the day was both awful and wonderful.
After many long, tantrum-filled hours, we unlocked the door of our new home and started dragging in our possessions. The empty space should have felt less like home than the one we’d just left: it’s a rental with nowhere nearthe security of the place we just sold, in a town neither I nor my husband have lived before. We were untethered, no jobs, no relatives, only a few fledgling friends.
Yet it felt like we were meant to be here. As if we had chosen the right path, even though it is the riskiest.
The home was welcoming and hopeful. It felt perfect and wonderful and everything about it made my exhausted heart sing a quiet but joyful song.
The kind of song you sing at the beginning of something amazing.
- Welcome to our new monthly feature of personal essays from our community. Our goal is to collect tales from all over the valley to showcase the compelling characters in our midst. If you would like to contribute please email firstname.lastname@example.org.