My mother smells of Anais Anais, every time I smell the perfume I think of Joyce. Other scents that remind me of her are fabric being stored and freshly tanned leather from when she made my wallet. My Father, Arnie smells of cigarettes and wood shavings, he used to smell of diesel fuel and grease before he retired. These are my families scents, smells that hold warm memories that I have drawn comfort from all my life.

Well, he used to smell of cigarettes. He has given them up, he had been smoking since he was 13 years old. I was pleased and happy for him it has be a bane of mine that he smoked the cancer sticks at all. His early morning ritual of coughing and spluttering was enough for me to forswear never to take up the habit. I was told by my mother on the other side of the world that Arnie had been told by his doctor to give up the smokes. I thought it was about bloody time that they had, he is overweight, puffs like a draught horse doing any activity and has a most unhealthy ruddy glow.

Distance makes the heart grow fonder but it is also easier to hide secrets. Joyce and Arnie failed to inform me of the reasons the doctor told him to give up. They had held back the fact he was ill until I returned from Spain to my dank hovel in London. I could hear the tears as Joyce told me that Arnie was in the coronary care ward in a country town hospital. He had had tests late last week and they had kept him in the hospital to keep an eye on him and he was predictably holding court with the nurses. He is likely to have to under go a heart by-pass operation in the next week or so.

This news should not have come as a shock because he has not been a well man for a number of years. It was lurking in my mind as I packed for my exodus from my heartland that I could have to return for the very situation I find myself in. I am the age my mother was when her father dropped dead of a heart attack. My family has assured there is no need to return home, even Arnie wheezing into the phone told me “Not to worry”. My brother, Michael, ever the pragmatic will inform the doctors of my situation and the need of 36 hours for me to return in the event of a crisis. I am comforted some what by the fact that Michael will call me and not try and spare me like Joyce would. I still feel powerless, the desolate feeling after I got off the phone to Joyce was mind numbing, the physical distance was palpable.

Thankfully I am not alone here, I am in debt to my boyfriend for letting me sob loudly and being there whilst I spoke to Arnie, it made the situation easier to bear. Being enveloped in his scent of vanilla and clean made me feel grounded, somewhat calm and reassured that I am not alone. I know that I have friends here and in the real world who will be supportive, Joyce and Arnie are comforted by that knowledge as well.

My family are my strength as well as I am theirs. We have weathered many storms, bound by blood and separated by distance. The distance is greatest this time but the bond is still tight, we will pull through, we always have.

11/11/2004 Arnie will be going in to hospital for coronary grafts on the 16th of November in Melbourne, Australia.
16/11/2004 Arnie had five bypasses in the wee small hours GMT. Michael my brother reports although he is on a ventilator, his colour is good and the doctors seem pleased. The first hurdle is over.
20/11/2004 I spoke to Arnie on the phone today. Joyce said his humour has returned and he is not as clingy. He sounded upbeat and there was no way he was going to return to hospital. Michael is being a trouper, giving the support of two siblings in my stead. I miss them but am grateful I am not having to return home in the face of tragedy. I made Arnie cry with three words an indication that this experience has beaten some his stoic demeanor. Michael said this operation will give us another 15 years with Arnie, a gift I can not express in words. Thank you to all those who have sent their best wishes.