Packing continues. In short fits and abortive starts. I am roused briefly, seized by some sudden energy borne of guilt, fuelled by too much tea, which dissipates quickly with the tedium of the task in increasingly dusty hand or because I have become distracted.
By an envelope stuffed full of assorted family members’ x-rays: a set ordered by Hat’s orthodontist; she’ll need a retainer, he said, Hat looked appalled and promised to stop sucking her thumb; too late said the dentist, but kindly. And he smiled.
Another collection of misty celluloid images – quite stuck together now – show my husband’s spine. They were taken in the KCMC Hospital which lies sprawled in the shadow of Mt Kilimanjaro. They had to be ordered after he had fallen from a tree and lay sprawled on the ground beneath it (alarmingly close to an enormous rock) on Christmas day 13 years ago: he’d shinned up the trunk to retrieve a little boy’s Santa delivered boomerang. He lost his grip after posting the present back down to earth. He spent the rest of the day flat on his back (we managed to move him from lawn to bed) I administered arnica, pain killers and the odd stiff whisky (and spade loads of increasingly inebriated TLC; it was Christmas day, after all).
The following morning I drove him to hospital. We waited for hours before we saw the Orthopaedic surgeon (and whilst we waited we encountered a patient who had died in the corridor lying upon a stretcher; I hoped we didn’t have to wait as long as he). The surgeon pronounced husband perfectly alright and suggested he take a couple of aspirin. Weeks later, and still almost immobile, we finally sought a second opinion in distinctly more salubrious Nairobi Hospital over the border. The orthopaedic surgeon there ordered new x-rays post haste: ‘’I can’t read these bloody things’’, he said in frustrated annoyance, squinting at the originals and frowning at me (presumably for not doing better first time round and securing my best beloved better care), “the quality is far too poor”, he explained. The new set revealed husband had shorn off the ends of three of his vertebrae. Nobody could find them though. And he was apparently, given a few weeks bed rest and rather more concerted TLC on my part, no worse for wear.
The third folder of pictures stuffed into the same giant brown envelope which is crusted with mud, testimony to a hornet’s house-building, holds my attention for much longer: the ultra sound photographs taken when I was 25 and my son a 23 week old foetus. I look at them now and am no less overcome by the emotion that attaches to those first glimpses of our babies: indefinite fuzzy outlines that we gaze upon for hours, tracing the gentle curve of tiny spines with our fingers, and trying not to cry.