To see the previous post My Mother : Paola Volkova – Unpublished Mother Loss Memoir Part 1
On Monday evening, the day you were taken to the Izmailovo Hospital, my brother called me on Skype. He said I should come to Moscow. My husband and I were on vacation in Ostend, a Northern Coast Sea resort in Belgium. “Are you sure?” I asked. You had just returned from Rome. In a few days you planned to come to see me in Paris. “Yes,” he answered laconically and nodded his head as if to make sure that I would understand him. The next morning I headed to the Ostend train station. It was mid-March. Europe had registered a record snowfall. Trains had practically ceased to work in Belgium. The departure information board announced cancelations through the end of the day. I could not leave on Tuesday The usual 2 3/4 hour trip to Paris became an impossible journey. Hoping to get to Paris by Wednesday evening, I tried to book a Thursday flight to go to Moscow. But the travel-booking web-site Opodo demanded the number and date of issue of my Russian passport. That was at home in Paris. So the ticket reservation had to be postponed until my arrival in Paris.
First thing on Wednesday morning I went back to the Ostend train station and bought tickets to Paris. The clerk at the station advised that we leave as quickly as possible. “There is too much snow. Trains are delayed. God knows when you will get to Paris,” he said. So we got on a train and headed to Lille, from which we had to get a high-speed train to Paris. When the train reached Mouskron, a town a few kilometers away from the French border, the train conductor announced that the train could not go any further. We got off the train with our luggage, and tried to find a taxi to get us to Lille. For 45 minutes we waited outside of the train station. The small provincial town was not accustomed to having its streets covered with heaps of snow. After making 5 phone calls to a local taxi center, we finally got a car which took us to Lille. I was afraid we would miss the train to Paris but I did not have to worry. All trains were delayed. I was considering getting on a plane to fly to Paris when our train was finally announced. We got to Paris at 8 PM after a nearly six-hour trip. I immediately called Air France. The first flight was leaving the next morning at 7AM. I booked an open-ended ticket.
My brother met me at the Sheremetievo airport in Moscow. He had not yet been to see you. He did not want to go without me. He said he had no courage to see you alone. It was freezing cold. The snow- black from pollution- had frozen the night before, turning the streets into dark skating rinks. We went directly to the hospital. At the entrance to the intensive care unit we were met by a doctor. He told us that things had become worse. In the prior 24 hours you had developed double pneumonia; your blood pressure was falling and kidneys had stopped functioning. All that in the last 24 hours?
When I packed my luggage to go to Moscow I took a few books that I wanted to read to you. I chose your all-time favorites. Poems by Anna Akhmatova and Vladimir Nabokov and the memoirs of Prince Yusoupov. When the doctor saw me taking the books with me into the ward he asked: “Did you hear what I have just told you about your mother’s state?“ “Yes,” I answered firmly. I was sure that you would have liked for me to read you these books.
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