The Twenty-Fifth


Christmas can be hard sometimes.

After a nice family dinner (probably the first decent dinner I’ve had in months, but that’s another story), our eldest (aged 4) woke up at 5AM on Christmas Day complaining of a strong headache and running a mild fever. Lacking other symptoms, we attributed it to dinner excesses and excitement and nursed him back to bed.

A few hours later, after unwrapping his presents grinning with delight, he slumped and complained of a headache again. An hour or so later he was in triage, by 15:30 he’d had a lumbar puncture1, and meningitis was tentatively diagnosed by teatime.

Fortunately we hadn’t wasted any time, and it turned out to be the harmless viral kind. But it took two days to run the tests and confirm the diagnosis.

Days (and nights) spent keeping tabs on his younger brother (who also ran a mild fever for a short period very early on, with frightful timing), relieving my wife at the hospital, and generally weathering the lot.

We’ve been there before - the wait, being unable to focus on anything, the aged but lovely, whimsically painted corridors (this time I spotted the painter himself, adding a new layer of Autumn leaves to a tree near which a dog and a rabbit merrily flew a kite), the TV sets I alone can reach unaided to switch channels, the continued idiocy of our government pouring out of half-baked newscasts caught while having a rushed meal.

Except it’s the holiday season and we’re on vacation, so the whole thing feels unreal until you arrive home and realise he hasn’t been able to play with his new toys yet.

And, like before, there is a bit more to the story – a glimpse into an alternate reality of sorts, and other events that I also won’t go into.

Wistful reminders of the passing of time, if you will.


  1. He actually had to have two. He was scared witless and refused to cooperate until the techs meticulously explained the procedure and the need for it. ↩︎


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