Communication Woes: Italy 2013

Day 2 After The Fall (cont’d)

Scarlett and I chatted sotto voce (unlike anyone else in the hospital) as Jay snoozed. I placed a call to a friend in Florence, whom we’d planned to see when we went to Tuscany. Becky and I were chums in Paris when I was 8 years old and lived there for a year. We’d seen each other only a few times in the intervening years, but had kept in touch – our families were close. Her delight at hearing from me dissipated when I shared our horrible news. Obviously we would not be able to visit. Becky offered to help in any way she could. I asked if she might be able to act as telephone translator if and when I could track down a doctor.

“No problem,” she said. “Call me any time.” I felt immeasurably relieved.

Every sort of communication was a challenge. I could not speak the language. I could text and call Canada but not receive texts or calls. I could not use my iPad at Scarlett’s house and there was no internet at the hospital.

Really, no internet at a major hospital? Not for visitors anyway. I could use Scarlett’s computer when we were at the house but could not access my gmail because I had forgotten the password and couldn’t retrieve it from my iPad because I had no internet access. And the time when people were awake and working in both Canada and Italy was very limited: 2-3 hours a day. Morning at the hospital was the middle of the night in Canada. ARRGH!!!

As Jay dozed, Scarlett suggested we pop into Perugia and find an internet café so I could access my passwords on my iPad. Promising to return soon, we headed into town. Not as easy as it sounds. Perugia is a gorgeous hilltop city and the core/tourist centre is at the very top of the hill. Scarlett parked in an underground garage and then we climbed up a long series of staircases /escalators inside the mountain, along ancient stone walkways, past caverns converted into shops, to emerge literally at the top of the town on a vast pedestrian square. It took at least 45 minutes to get from the hospital to the café with internet.

View of Perugia

View of Perugia

We each ordered a gelato. Then I got the wireless password code and logged on. I would only have access for 20 minutes, they said. I went online, found the requisite password, but when I went to login to gmail, I received a message saying someone had tried to hack into my account from Italy and I needed to change my password to get access. It must be have been my deranged attempt the previous day on Scarlett`s computer. I started to go through the rigamarole required to change the password but realized I would not be able to receive the email allowing this, then my internet access ran out. Scarlett pleaded with the café owners who granted me another 20 minutes. My gelato melted. By the time I finally had a new password and had written it down, time was again up and besides, we’d been away from the hospital too long, we had to get back there, see Jay and then race back to the house guests. As we gathered our belongings to leave the café, I realized my wallet was missing.

I thought I might faint. Could someone have picked my purse during our long subterranean climb? Or while I distractedly struggled with internet? Without my wallet I had no credit cards, no insurance card…. I couldn’t stand it.

“Maybe it’s in the car,” I said. As we made our silent way back down through the subterranean caverns and staircases, I began to feel unhinged. How many more catastrophes could I face? It was all I could do not to scream as we marched toward the car.

My wallet was there, on the floor. I almost burst into tears of relief.

We raced back to the hospital, aware that the day was passing and we would soon need to drive back to Casa Lauro. The hour-long drive was proving a royal pain. I did not want Scarlett to have to spend her whole holiday with me at the hospital, but I couldn’t drive. The car Jay and I had rented was a standard transmission. I only drive automatic. At the time it had seemed a good idea: I felt nervous about being behind the wheel among wild Italian drivers; Jay liked the challenge. Standard cars were way cheaper to rent. No brainer. Except now I had a car I couldn’t drive. I briefly considered renting an automatic but my nerves were so frayed I figured that would just be inviting an accident.

Scarlett assured me she didn’t mind and I was deeply grateful for her company and support. Still, I felt torn: I hated only being able to see Jay a few hours a day and felt guilty at eating up all Scarlett’s time. Jay reassured me that he’d be okay, he was just sleeping anyway, wanted nothing and understood we had friends to entertain, or at least keep company.

Before we departed, Mike called to speak to Jay. It was 3:00pm, so 9:00am in Canada. Mike was en route to the airport to fly to B.C. but wanted to hear Jay’s voice. Jay had taken it in stride when I told him I’d called Mike. I got the impression he was beyond making decisions and would go along with whatever I suggested now.

Jay sounded fragile on the phone with Mike, despite his efforts to come over as hearty. I had to hold the phone to his ear; he had no strength in his arms. His voice shook and cracked. I suspect Mike found it more upsetting than reassuring, but Jay was definitely cheered to talk to him. Scarlett and I left him in relatively good spirits.

We ate a very late lunch at the house and I hammered away at emails, canceling whatever I could – the apartment we’d rented in Venice, a reservation to dine at Villa Fiordelisi on Lake Garda, where we knew the chef, Riccardo Camanini, our booking at the B&B near the restaurant. There was, I knew, no refund on the airbnb booking in Venice, but I pleaded in the email. Then I joined some of the gang for a walk up into the hills – a breath of air and exercise. The road was quiet, windswept, with lots of poplar trees, old stone houses and spectacular views of olive groves and vineyards. The air smelled of pine and summer heat.

house view1 house view 2house view 3As everyone else prepared dinner (I guess I’d been absolved of all responsibility!) I called Jay’s oldest son Aaron. Like Mike he was shocked but rose to the occasion when I fell to pieces. It seemed that whenever I spoke to family members I dissolved. I asked about Carla. Aaron and his family were in Hamilton awaiting the birth. I asked him not to tell her about Jay.

“We have to tell her,” he said.

“Jay doesn’t want her worried.”

“She has to know. When mom was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, we didn’t tell Carla because she was heading to Europe for a 3-week band trip and we were afraid she wouldn’t go if she knew. She was furious when she found out. I can tell her. Let me handle this, Meg.”

I caved. He knew Carla better than I did. I had to trust him.

Then I asked if he might be able to help me with the Insurance people. It was frustrating trying to reach them given the time difference and cell phone problems – and I was so rattled I‘d forget to call during the brief window when I might connect. I wanted someone to track them down and get some answers. Aaron agreed to do this.

Then I called our youngest, Jamie, in Montreal. It took several attempts as he was out and I did not want to leave a message. I also knew he couldn’t afford to return my trans-Atlantic call. Jamie was only twenty and close to his dad; I was worried about how he might react. When we finally connected, he took the news more calmly than Aaron or Mike had – perhaps because this time I was able to deliver the news without becoming hysterical. Obviously Jamie was concerned but he didn’t seem overwhelmed.

The rest of the evening passed in a blur. While everyone around me caroused, I longed to be home with all my loved ones – and English-speaking doctors!


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