The call came through on my mobile, as I stood at the delicatessen. Side by side with my youngest daughter and her friend. They wanted to make cheesecake and needed ricotta and cream.

My eldest daughter sounded urgent.

‘Dad’s had a heart attack, you must come at once.’

Times like this, your mind runs in a blur. There is action to take and no time for thinking. No time for planning. No time for looking ahead into what might happen, or into the past, to what was. The time calls for action.

I was in the hospital within thirty minutes.

My husband survived. They put in a pacemaker. That night he called me at one o’clock in the morning in a panic because his heart was racing. 

‘This thing is all wrong. I want them to take it out and start again.’ 

My husband knows when something is not right. He is a craftsman with an eye for detail. They took him back into surgery and slowed the pacemaker down. He came home a week later. A slowed man, a quieter man, which is when the two Swiss boys arrived.

We could not tell them to stay away. They were seventeen years old and had planned this trip for months. They began to plan when our seventeen-year-old middle daughter completed an exchange in France and met them there. 

They had always wanted to visit Australia.

‘Come and stay with my family,’ she said. and come they did. Christmas time and her father post heart attack but still we celebrated

The pleasure in their faces when they dragged out their gift to us: a huge basket full of Swiss chocolates. Blocks and bags, bars in all varieties. Soft centred, hard nuts, chopped nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, dark and light. Nougat filled, mint filled and praline. I have never seen so much chocolate in one collection outside of a shop. We made it last. 

We made it last too long to the point, years later, some of the bars, which I had secreted away in a cupboard in my bedroom had gone stale and white, inedible. They needed to be tossed. 

But the Swiss boys whom we have not seen since the school year resumed and they flew back home, remain in my mind. A reminder of my husband’s heart attack and how you can survive – sometimes – even the worst afflictions. 

One thought on “Chocolate”

  1. I remember my father’s first heart attack with, for me, surprising clarity. Not everything. Scenes. Him sitting in the living room and telling me be felt like an elephant was sitting on his chest. Mum had to go to a neighbour to use the phone because—this would be about 1971—we didn’t have one but one was installed straight after. I remember Dad lying in hospital and asking me to peel a grape which I found odd, and still do to this day, and I remember watching him walk up the stairs when he got back home, sooooooo slowly. And too, I remember Miss Frazer coming up to me outside English and telling me she was sorry to hear about my dad and I was surprised she knew and wondered who told her. But the thing that I associate with that time is less of a memory and more of an awareness. My dad was human. I’d never seen him weak before and that changed how I viewed him and, as they say, it was all downhill from there. It was over thirty years before the second one killed him. To be honest I’m surprised he lasted that long; by his mid-sixties—hell, my age—he didn’t look like he had much life left in him but once he retired he rallied round. It’s not something I worry about. I mean, who’s to say how I’ll go? But I live a stress-free, alcohol-free life, I don’t smoke and watch my weight. I should exercise more but so should 90-odd percent of the population.

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