By the time we got back from the country, I had received six missed calls from my mother. I had dropped my phone at the bottom of one of my bags and I honestly didn’t hear her call. By the time I realised my mistake and finally called my mother back, she shouted at me in frantic Hebrew.
“Sara. I see that you are back in the land of the living. I thought that you had had a car crash and you were lying dead at the bottom of a ditch”.
I sighed and mouthed to Daniel “she thought I was dead”. He nodded and smiled. My mother seemed to sense we were laughing at her and became angrier.
“I take it you are still with him. I suppose you will start to speak in English again AND I bet you are on the loud speaker and he can hear every word”.
“We aren’t on the loud speaker” I told her in English “and he can hear everything you say very clearly because you are shouting. I am sorry I didn’t hear the phone. It was at the bottom of the bag. Anyway, we had a lovely time and I met his parents and his sister and kids. It was a very peaceful weekend”.
I paused slightly and used the word “peaceful” as I wasn’t really sure how to describe the weekend. I did enjoy it and obviously the weekend had some amazing implications for us. I liked his parents and sister and Giles actually amused me although I wasn’t going to admit that to Daniel. But of course the situation with the lift and the shower upset and disturbed me. For one thing, as much as Daniel tried to hide it, it made him feel vulnerable and I was able to see clearly what he could and couldn’t do but may be that wasn’t such a terrible thing.
“Well” she continued in a softer tone “I will say this in English. You do remember that we are going to Beate’s house for dinner on Friday night?”
We both looked at each other. Both of us had forgotten.
“We did remember didn’t we Dan?” I replied he nodded.
“What I thought was” my mother replied “that your father and I would like you to bring Daniel to our house in the week, earlier than Friday obviously so that we can get to know him a little. If you think it is too early then we can leave it. It is just that we wouldn’t normally ask but you have just met his parents haven’t you?”
“I would love to meet you” Daniel said speaking into the phone. “What day would you like us to come?”
“Us?” my mother hissed down the phone “he is talking like you are a couple already. Very quick but then look what happened with me and your father. After the first date we were practically engaged. We were inseparable.”
“Yes mum” I responded not wanting to hear the story again. So it was arranged. Daniel was going to drive straight from work on Wednesday to meet my parents. I would meet him there we decided and he would drive me back to his flat. Of course my mother wanted me there from midday onwards so that she could question me all afternoon about Daniel’s parents.
I arrived at my parents’ house in Finchley at midday as expected. As I walked along the road I heard frantic banging and found my father on his hands and knees banging and sawing at some wooden planks.
“What are you making?” I asked him.
“A ramp” my father said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “It will be easier for him to get inside I presume”.
“Thank you daddy” I said hugging him. “You just do not know what that means to me.”
I found my mother in the kitchen chopping up vegetables and then stirring them into a big pan.
“I thought as it is warm we could have Kebabs and salads and may be some lamb. Does Daniel like that type of thing?
“Anything” I think I told her. “He definitely loves meat – A LOT”.
“Well” she said sitting down. “I want to hear all the details. I spoke to Beate and she said that he was in a car accident with he was a teenager. She said that he copes very well though.” She finished nodding at me.
“Yes I suppose he does” I answered. “Do you think it was right that she didn’t tell you the full details of him. I mean, how hurtful for him if I would have just gone home and left him there. I just don’t understand why she would have taken that risk.”
“Well” my mother replied tentatively “I asked her about that and she said that I told her that you were a lovely girl and she decided to take the chance. She said that she thought that Daniel could have coped with the rejection. I honestly don’t think it was right but at the end of the day, you look extremely happy I must say”.
“Well the truth is ...” I paused for a moment and then changed my mind. “Oh mum.” I told her “I am totally “loved up”. I just absolutely adore him. I love totally everything about him.”
“Everything?” she asked.
“Well yes obviously I would rather that things were not so complicated but what can I do? I really like him.”
“Tell me?” my mother asked again and when I realised she was blushing I knew what was coming.
“I presumed you have slept with him.”
“Well yes” I replied.
“What I meant to ask is can he have sex?”
“Yes” I said briefly “he can and before you ask I enjoyed it A LOT and to be honest I just can’t think of my life without him. It is like I have been waiting for him all my life to come. I just don’t want to be without him.”
“Well, you are in love with him. That is how it should be. What about him? Does he feel the same. He must do otherwise he wouldn’t have introduced you to his parents. Beate spoke to his mother, Eva I think her name is ..”
“Eve actually” I corrected her.
“Well Eve seems to think that you are made for each other and Daniel is very smitten with you. Hadn’t brought anyone to meet them for years.”
“Apparently so” I agreed.
“Apparently so” I agreed.
Daniel arrived that evening. He had delivered a huge bunch of flowers which arrived about ten minutes before him. My father had made a perfect ramp for him and he was able to slide up their front steps with ease.
“He is very handsome” my mother said. “Very English looking but in a very cosmopolitan way”.
“What are you talking about?” I asked my mother “that is a total contradiction” but I didn’t mind because I knew that both my parents really liked him.
I did move in with Daniel – kind of. Kind of in the way that I didn’t bring all my belongings from my flat and I didn’t bother to rent out my room, I just came backwards and forwards with my things. It worked – kind of. I always felt that it wasn’t permanent. I didn’t ever feel secure.
Weeks and weeks went by and one late afternoon when Daniel was stuck in the office his mother phoned.
“Hell Sara” she said “is Daniel not back yet?”
“No.” I answered “and I don’t think he will be back until after nine. You could call him in the office if you want to?” I offered.
“no, no. It’s fine. I think I really wanted to talk to you”.
“What now?” I thought silently. In the months that I had been with Daniel I was used to the weekly dramas that went along with his parents.
“Has Daniel ever mentioned that we put his name down at the Leventhal Studio in Israel?”
“No?” I ventured. “He has never mentioned it. Wait ... isn’t that where my Aunt works?” The Leventhal Studio was a world renown practice which spent all its time and attention to getting people with spinal injuries walking with a brace connected to electrodes.
“Yes” Eve said hesitantly. “I believe Beate may have mentioned it. Well he has been on the waiting list for five years you now.”
“I didn’t know” I added “How long is the list?”
“Well, I think he has been on it for five years but I’m not sure what position he is on the list. I expect they update Daniel sometimes.” she replied “I don’t know but the point is, if he was to get to the top of the list, I don’t think Daniel wants to enter the program. He says he has accepted the way he is.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Would you talk to him?” his mother asked. I agreed but only after looking at the facility on the internet.
Daniel arrived home exhausted a little before nine and practically fell onto the sofa.
“Do you want anything to eat?” I asked “No” he replied “just a hug. Jess got us some pizza as we worked”.
I looked at him silently. I hated Jess who had been his secretary since before I had met him. Sometimes they shared lunch together. In my opinion she was just the type of girl that he would have gone out with when he was younger. Slim, tall, public school educated. “Good for Jess” i said.
“Well” he said “you didn’t say you were cooking anything.”
“No” I agreed “I was only going to give you something warmed up or pasta. No, it’s fine. I’m just being stupid.”
I sat down. “Daniel, did you know that my aunt works for the Leventhal Studio?”
“No” he replied “which aunt?”
“My mother’s sister is a physiotherapist there. Your mother said your name is down on the list for one of those braces.”
“It is but by the time I get to the top of the list I will probably be too old and not qualify. Why?”
“Do you want to do the program. I read about it just now. It looks amazing. Obviously you probably won’t walk unaided at all but it may get you upright and then there is the possible nerve regeneration ... you never know”.
“Can you get me a drink?” he asked wearily. I got up and got him a cold bottle of beer from the refrigerator.
“you are just spouting Leventhal’s rheteric aren’t you? I’m sure that it is a good thing but I’m okay the way I am.”
“Look Dan” I said getting irritated. “Don’t say it like I am pushing you to do this because I can’t deal with the way you are or anything like that. Your mother spoke to me about it and I am speaking to you about it. I thought may be I could get my aunt to move you up the list. “
There was silence.
“Is there a problem with this conversation?” I asked him “because otherwise I won’t bring it up again alright?”.
“There is no problem” he said. “Come and sit next to me”.
I moved next to him and tucked myself under his arm and cuddled up to his chest. “Alright” I said resigned. “I won’t talk about it again. You are happy how you are and that is fine.”
“No” he sighed “any improvement is obviously good but I have had enough of all that hospital and physio stuff and anyway who knows when I can do it and what about work. I think you have to be away for weeks”.
“Well you could take your work with you. You often work at home you could do it in the evenings may be. I could help you with paperwork. Anyway that is not the point because you are entitled to a holiday. Tell me” I said looking at him properly. “What really is the problem with this because there is one isn’t there?”
He stared down at the rim of the bottle of beer. “I am” he said hovering with his words, trying to put what he needed to say into prospective.
“... well, obviously it was difficult when I first had my accident. Learning how to do things again, sit, get up, whatever, wash, bathroom,” he sighed “and I just don’t want to be that vulnerable again. I am okay, I’m independent, I’ve got you. We make love, I’m loved, I go to the gym, I work out, I swim, is it necessary to push myself – I don’t know. I just actually don’t think so”.
“When you put it like that” I said stroking his arm “it is just that they say on their website that in order to keep the peak in your mobility, just in case they find a cure ....”
“Yea I know” he sighed. “Call your aunt. Do you fancy a trip to Israel then?”
I jumped up and then down again and hugged him. “Oh Danny. You’ll meet my Grandma, you’ll love her and she will cook her special schnitzels for you. She will think you are skinny and cook loads of food for you.”
“Perhaps we can go and visit my uncle as well. He lives on a Moshav up north. I haven’t seen him for years?”
“Is he a very religious rabbi?” I asked.
“Well he is orthodox but it’s not like he walks around dressed only in black. He probably considers himself to be quite modern living on a Moshav. Obviously he is a rabbi and more religious than your family. Do you know what, I’m liking this idea, call your aunt tomorrow”.
So it was arranged. We were going to fly to Tel-Aviv, spend a night in a hotel, visit my grandma in the day and then travel to the hospital where we would stay for two weeks. Daniel would have his therapy in the day and I would spend most of the time with my grandma and then we would spend a few days with Daniel’s uncle before flying home.
I didn’t realise how difficult it was with flying with Daniel and how restrictive and humiliating it was for him. First of all, they totally took away his chair and he had to sit in the plane seat for the whole four hour trip. The toilets were so tiny that it was almost impossible for him to get into and there was always the worry of whether they would lose his chair or not.
Not only that was the fact that we had packed enough clothes for three weeks, I had to handle the luggage. Daniel tried to take over but I was scared that he would pull a muscle and then not be able to take part in the course.
I sat next to him on the plane. They had upgraded us to business class and we sat looking at each other in a virtually empty plane.
“You see how difficult everything is. Now you know”.
“I kind of guessed you know” I told him. “What, do you think this would put me off?”
“No” he said “but I hate it when you see me looking vulnerable. I want you to see me “all man”” he said jokingly but kind of seriously at the same time.
“You are all man, my man don’t worry. Is that why you don’t want me to see you using the brace until you can do it?”
“Yes” he said eventually “I suppose so. I want to just get on with it. You can watch me when I can do it. Do you understand why?”
“I do understand but it doesn’t matter to me and you know that’s true”.
“Tell me the truth. What do you feel?”
I looked at him. “That is very difficult to say because if I was truthful of course I want you to walk. Of course your life and even my life now that I am living with you would be so so much easier but I honestly want to be with you regardless. I just love you. I could have walked away at the very beginning but why didn’t I?”
“because I am gorgeous, handsome and rich” he replied stroking me cheek and kissing me.
“If that would have been me in the wheelchair” I asked tentatively. “If for example it would have been the other way around, what would you have done?”
He looked at me and sighed. “It is difficult to say because obviously when I had my accident I was a kid really and before that, yes, of course I will admit I would have walked away, but now, i don’t know. That sounds terrible doesn’t it?”
I shrugged “it does but in the most awful sexist way, I think I am a nurturer and I want to love you and make everything better.”
“What? Are you saying that I don’t love you and want to make everything better”.
“Of course not” I replied “I am just saying that I, as a woman has the tendency to look after and mother, so from my point of you, I love you and can cope with .... everything but I’m not sure that if it was totally the other way around that you would cope in the same way.”
He looked kind of sad or even confused.
“It is not a criticism I can assure you. It is a fact”.
“I’ve never had to look after you, not like that thank goodness but I would. I love you”.
I put my head on his chest. “I know you do”. I feel asleep for the rest of the plane journey with my head comfortably on his chest. I was aware that he was softly kissing my forehead as I slept and he watched the film. This is how he looked after me.