On Good Friday my husband was admitted to hospital. ‘It’s an emergency!’, we were told.
In less than an hour they had found him a bed, the paperwork was filled in and we had to kiss him good-bye.
He had already had to go to the A&E department the Sunday before, but complications following his treatment meant that he had spent the week in an ever increasing pain, which by Friday had turned into agony.
There is a lot to be said for the stiff upper lip and the British people who so naturally and stoically display it, as every time I would gently ask him through the week if he was in pain, he would reply succinctly that he was ‘uncomfortable’ and then retreat into himself.
With my Balkan temperament I would have screamed the house and half of Vicenza down.
So, when the hospital reacted so quickly, I was grateful that my husband would be getting help.
As I don’t drive, I had to leave the car in the hospital’s car park, feeding the parking meter with all the coins I could find in my pockets. Then I wheeled our little daughter back home.
Easter was coming!
I have spent my fair share of big holidays alone in a foreign country before, so wasn’t quite fazed by the idea that our first Easter in Italy was to be spent not that festively after all. I distinctly remember my very first Christmas in London when in a city of 8 million people I didn’t know a soul. I had moved to the UK only three weeks earlier and spent the day watching television and making myself a festive lunch. I also spoke to my family on the phone (that was pre-Skype), which cheered me a bit.
My worst solitary holiday though was a couple of years after that, when the flatmates in the house I was sharing at the time, wouldn’t talk to each other even on Christmas Day. Everyone spent the day locked in their room eating their respective food instead of celebrating together. Talk about big city alienation. I moved out shortly afterwards.
As for Easter… Well, I think the main thing about Easter has always been that as the Christian Orthodox Church (in which I am christened) follows a different calendar to the Catholic and the Protestant Churches, Easter for me usually is a week or two after the Easter celebrated in the UK, where I resided between the years 2000 and 2014. So, as a non practising (in the conservative sense of the word) Christian, I was never really sure what to do – stuff myself silly with chocolate eggs on the Catholic/Protestant Easter and then paint real eggs for my actual Easter? Celebrate them both? Amalgamate them both?
In the end, I would usually enjoy the bank holidays around the first and call my family to wish them a ‘Happy Easter!’ on the second. In all my years abroad I never actually got as far as painting some real eggs like we do back home in Bulgaria.
With my husband in hospital, Easter took a back seat, and all my energy was focused on him and on making sure that our little daughter was well looked after.
At times it was testing doing it all by myself. But you need to pull yourself together and that’s that.
My husband was discharged in the afternoon on Easter Sunday. Upon his return home, we had a little celebration with an Italian chocolate cake (not the traditional Colomba, but delicious nevertheless) and a huge chocolate egg that was close to half a kilo – the only one we had managed to buy in advance.
We called our respective families and wished ‘Happy Easter!’ to the British one and ‘Happy Palm Sunday!’ to the Bulgarian one.
Quite fittingly the sorpresa hidden in our egg (yes, Italian Easter eggs are not only huge but come with trinkets inside them) was an anchor-shaped charm – the symbol of hope.
If for whatever reason you are spending a holiday alone, don’t lose hope. It’s just a day. Life goes on and things change!
P.S. With many thanks to the doctors and the nurses at San Bortolo Hospital in Vicenza for taking care of my husband. He told me that he was particularly touched by the mini Colomba cake served at breakfast on Easter Sunday morning.