In Sickness and in Health: A holiday isn’t a holiday if you’re racked with guilt

I’d like to think I’ve cracked the whole coming-home-with-good-grace thing, but sometimes it feels out of my control

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The Independent Online

Last year, Rebecca’s husband Nick was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the aftermath of his accident

I’ve just returned from a family holiday. Unlike the previous couple of times I’ve been away since Nick’s accident, my homecoming was remarkable for its smoothness, and the fact that at no point was I in floods of tears. The first time I went away was last summer, and despite being racked with guilt at leaving my poor broken beloved behind, I needed a break and my parents persuaded me to take one.

I’ve always been terrible about coming home from holidays, with the wobbly lip starting two days before I was due back. I’d have to build in a day of re-acclimatising on my return, and when I did go back to work, I would mope around with an air of tragedy on my first (and sometimes second and third) day back.

But last year, the thought of coming home to Nick meant that I was more cheerful than usual about heading home. Until, on the way to the airport, I had a call from my upstairs neighbour. “Are you OK?” I asked.

“Oh yes, thank you.”

“Is the house OK?”

“Yes it’s fine.”

“So... what’s up?”

“Someone crashed into your car while you were away. It looks bad.”

I had plenty of time to gnash my teeth thinking about the admin to come on my flight, not least because I’d not paid due attention when booking it and it ended up going via Glasgow. Which took two more hours than I expected. There were tears before bedtime (at 2am).

I thought I’d be OK on my next trip. This time, I’d arranged to spend a few days at the care home on my return from a week in the Alps with my dad, stepmother and siblings. I’d also parked in the long-stay car park in a bid to foil any would-be car wreckers. But going from care-free holiday fun, where I got to be someone’s child rather than the designated sensible adult (who, me?), straight to the confines of the care home, via a sodden motorway, saw me buckle. Before I could face going back to my life, I sat in the home’s car park and wept. I also drank a fair portion of neat vodka to take the edge off things. It was wonderful to see my husband, but ghastly to be back to our new reality. After a couple of days, thankfully, I pulled myself together.

This time, I was dry eyed and happy to be back. I had a night in my own bed, before going to see Nick (who was an angel for letting me go away in the first place). I’d like to think I’ve cracked the whole coming-home-with-good-grace thing, but the truth of it is that I cried my tears before I even went away.

A few hours before my flight (paid for, in case anyone thinks I’m flush with funds, by my dad), I was told by the Department of Work and Pensions that the Personal Independence Payment Nick had been receiving, the one that has been paying for van hire and was due to fund our accessible vehicle, was actually something he wasn’t eligible for. So our plans and dreams of hitting the road, of Nick finding some freedom, were dead in the water. I wept, I ranted – and then spent the holiday trying to work out how to find the money we’ll need. Still, it meant I went away miserable and came back with fire in my belly, which is better, I guess, than tears in my eyes.