On the Christmas Carol and Triggers

By 15th December 2017 January 25th, 2018 No Comments

I didn’t know the story of The Christmas Carol. When a good friend suggested we go out I jumped at the chance. The last month has been *so hard*  with the isolation. When Kai is poorly and the weather is cold we don’t go out. We cancel all the appointments and hunker in till he’s better. But what that means is that I don’t go out, either. I think it was two weeks before I left the flat, and I was feeling it. The lack of perspective was making me stir-crazy. So yes, I was very very keen to go out. Because we had no firm plans, I googled ‘Christmassy’ and ‘tonight in London’ and what came up was The Christmas Carol at the Old Vic, so off we went.

I didn’t know the story of The Christmas Carol. If I had I wouldn’t have suggested it.  But instead there we were, I was delighted to be out, delighted to have a cup of mulled wine and even more delighted when one or two of the actors offered us mini mince pies. Look at this face – is not one that is delighted through and through?

The show had set up a 360 audience, and as such we were sat on the stage, eye level with the actors, facing the audience. It was amazing. The lighting was beautiful, the orchestra was fab, the three ‘buskers’ were fun (an accordion, cello and violin performing Christmas songs) and the set was quite clever.  Even better, I thought the actors were amazing – the lead, Mr Ebenezer Scrooge was Rhys Ifans, perhaps better known as the crazy flatmate of Hugh Grants in Nottinghill (I much preferred him as Scrooge).

It was all going well and I was fully engrossed in the show… right up until the Ghost of Christmas Present showed Tiny Tim. Tiny Tim had stopped breathing, and his mother walked away to wait anxiously for the Dr at door, while his father pleaded with him to breathe. That’s not what you do, I thought. When Kai doesn’t breathe I do plead and beg him to, but I also reposition him, and blow up his nose, and if he breath holds for long enough, I do CPR.

Unless it’s like that time he turned puce, and then blue. I was so scared, so scared that the inevitable had finally come, my fear was overwhelming. I was completely helpless, and Kai was such an unnatural shade and there wasn’t anything I could do. And just like that, while I watched an actor react in a way only someone who has never experienced it could, I was transported back to intensive care with the very real fear of watching my baby die right before me.

Before I knew it I was sobbing. But silently sobbing, very aware this was probably meant to be a poignant point of the story, but uncontrollably sobbing all the same. I had to stop watching. I covered my eyes with my hands, tears dripping down my face onto my shirt. When the lights came up for the interval my friend seemed a bit shocked to find me in a complete state.

It took me a long time to regain composure, and all the while my friend tried to explain that the story had a happy ending, I couldn’t get past what was clearly a trigger for my grief. I agreed to stay only if there was no more Tiny Tim breathing dramas, deaths or funerals. Needless to say, we left at the interval.

As we left, I offered our chairs to two ladies who had come down to sit with their friend, who was sat next to me. They’d got last minute tickets and were all sitting in different places. “You’re not coming back?” one of them asked, a bit shocked. I understand that:it was beautifully done show. I don’t think they were prepared for emotionally honest me, who, through my tears said: “My son is terminal, and this hits too close to home.”  My friend ushered me out after that.

He took me for fish tacos to make me feel better (which they did). And then we went to Claridge’s, admired their upside-down Christmas trees and was served rich chocolate desserts by young men in white jackets. It was very swish and decadent.  The only blight was it was clear that while dessert at Claridge’s was a treat for us, for some it was their clearly their local while in London. I couldn’t help but feel that the collective wealth in the dining room at that point could easily have paid for a cure for Kai. But hey ho.

It was an odd night. I didn’t realise my grief sat so close to the surface, that I’d be triggered by something like Tiny Tim not breathing. I guess this is one of those things now. Special needs, medically fragile, rare and terminal metabolic disorder parenting.

If you don’t have a terminal child, go see the Christmas Carol at the Old Vic. It really was lovely.

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