FH (Nick’s father) called, ecstatic. He and Frankie spent the day at the volunteer fire hall at home while fire fighters from Tarrys and Blueberry, bus drivers from Castlegar and Nelson, two children, a paramedic and assorted supporters all had their heads shaved with pledges to raise money for our family. Bonnie S., my late night phone support, and three others barbered with shavers in hand.
The fire department’s big red pumper truck sat in the parking lot while the cement floor of its bay grew a carpet of hair. Uncle Troy’s newly slick skull looks more like the bowling ball we thought it to be.
Last week a vain firefighter apologetically told FH he could never do it. “I love Nicholas, but I just can’t shave my head.” When his tight black curls began to fall onto his lap the look of pain that grew in his face had the building echoing with shouts of laughter. Ironically he had collected the most pledges. The youngest to lose his hair and the sweetest sight I’m sure was four year old Aidan who sat proudly on newly bald JR’s lap. FH said he wanted to cry.
Nicholas beamed for hours after the phone call. His dad promised to bring a ball cap that people at home are wearing. It says, “Did It For Nick”.
“Do you want some lunch? I could go to the cafeteria and get a sandwich for you.” A gray-haired lady wearing a red vest with a Red Cross emblem kindly offers from the doorway. It seems all I do is sit and eat. I’m getting fat. Mom gets up and goes to the door and I hear their voices chatting in the hallway. I shift my weight in my chair but have no desire to join them.
My step – mother and I are working on our relationship. We have uncomfortable pauses and awkward moments, and sometimes I wish she wasn’t here, but I don’t even like my own company. This is the most condensed amount of time we have spent together since I lived at home, and back then we were like oil and water. Now, we are drawn together over the bed of a sick child and she is doubly wounded as my mother and his grandmother.
Mom is back in the room, and for a minute she stands beside Nicholas’ bed. Her long retired but spent her whole working life as a registered nurse’s eyes expertly scan him for whatever it is nurses look for before she slips into the chair beside me.
“She was a nice lady,” she whispers. Her small and soft hands folded in her lap always fascinated me. My dad had rough and callused man hands. He worked as a communications technician first with the Royal Canadian Air Force and then with the British Columbia Forest Service.
I was nine years old when my father asked my sister and me what we thought of him getting married to her. I told him she smelled good and was soft to hug.
For a while Mom and I sit together watching Nick’s chest rise and fall. I reach for her hand and gently squeeze. “You’re a nice lady” I tell her.