New Year 2012
Throughout those Christmas holidays, Bink’s return to Cambridge hung in the balance.
I didn’t have the emotional energy to contemplate her not going back. To imagine, properly and in detail, what it would mean to have Bink drop out again. Living at home again. Being ill, full-time.
It had been such an achievement to get her back to Cambridge: so what she wanted.
At the time I didn’t know she hadn’t done any work throughout the Michaelmas Term. Not attended a single lecture, produced work for one lone supervision, opened a book. That she’d hardly been in her room and often barely eaten or slept.
In the New Year she went to see Tim Alberry, a hypnotherapist we both like hugely and had found helpful.
I didn’t dare ask what she hoped for...
When she came home she was wearing that ironic, mock-annoyed, so-typical, self-deprecating Bink smile.
Apparently I want to stay at Cambridge…
On Wednesday 11th January, Bink returned to her college.
A few days later she rang.
Fine. I breathed deeply.
Whatever you think…
I prayed. Every day. Many times a day.
I didn’t even want to imagine her future, if she gave up again.
How many more years of her life, trying to get showering right? Trying to clean her teeth in the correct way? Not washing her laundry?
A day or two later:
I can’t stay here. I’ve got to come home.
What do you want me to do, Bink? What help do you need?
She needed help packing. But she didn’t want me to come and do it. I would make her stressed.
A few days later, a Monday night, we hosted Shaun’s school prayer meeting. As we always did, at the beginning of each term.
I put my head round the drawing-room door, half way through getting dinner ready for them all. Sometimes it’s easier to cook, than pray. To be Martha, not Mary.
Please pray for Bink. She’s ill; may have to leave university.
I’d met Rachael when we first moved to Bedford. Her family attended the church where Ben played in the band. She and my father read the Bible together every other Wednesday morning.
Endlessly kind: supremely calm.
She came into the kitchen.
Please tell me if there’s anything I can do.
Help Bink pack?
Bink liked Rachael. And she had a large car.
Of course, Rachael said.
She would go over to Cambridge the very next day.
Too soon... Bink panicked. I can’t get ready that quickly!
After tomorrow, Rachael wasn’t free for another ten days... to my immense relief.
I had done all I could. It wouldn’t happen yet.
Friday afternoon. Bink on the telephone again. Distressed again.
Come home, I said. Now. Just for the weekend.
She had to be here on Monday anyway, to see Helen, her wonderful psychologist.
That night we were going out for dinner with neighbours. Join us, Bink!
I hoped they wouldn’t mind.
Or rather, to be more honest, I couldn’t afford to care whether they minded or not.
That’s what it does to you. Extreme illness. Extreme anything. You become a person, a guest, a friend with no manners.
(The same when we were homeless. Relations invited us to live with them. Without our dogs.
Serena’s dog, and Ben’s dog, to be precise.
I would never normally query, try to renegotiate, a gift; a favour. The offer was what it was.
That’s very kind, I said… but please can we bring the dogs? I couldn’t do that to my children, too.
No, they said.
Similarly, you put your head round the door of a prayer meeting which is supposed to be for a school, and ask them to pray for your daughter.)
I can’t get ready in time, Bink wailed, over and over. To come home.
You don’t need anything. It’s home. You’ve got it all here.
She missed one bus, and then another. The next was in five minutes.
I can’t do it!
All right, Bink, I said: out of ideas. Don’t come. It doesn’t matter.
Of course not. I just thought you’d enjoy a weekend at home. Stay where you are.
Minutes later she rang.
I’m on the bus.
Of course, Serena said later. You took the pressure off.
Ah yes. I had forgotten that.
She turned up at our small dinner party, just in time for pudding.