JOHN OSTRANDER: Christmas Treasures, Part 2
That night Kim really wanted to go to Christmas Eve service at our church. Redeemer held it at 8 PM to enable those who were very young and very old to attend. We got an evening pass from the hospital so Kim could go and the church made arrangements to accommodate her – they had a bed, a screen, and some members of the church who were trained nurses took over. In fact, once I got Kim there, all was taken out of my hands and I only had to sit there.
We left before the service was over; Kim’s energy had flagged and I needed to get her back to her hospital bed. Joe and Mary were there as well and we planned to open presents and then watch A Charlie Brown Christmas together. I had spent a lot of time and thought and some expense trying to get Kim the best gifts I could but about half way through it, Kim abandoned the present opening. She no longer had the energy or interest; it has been expended on the Christmas service.
She wanted to see the cartoon and Mary and Joe took her into the TV room. I told them to start without me.
Truth is, I was angry. That’s not something they tell you about when you’re a cancer patient’s caretaker. Sometimes you get angry – at the situation, at the cancer, and even with the patient. You wind up giving a lot to them and they may not have a lot to give back. Kim took the energy she had and spent it on that Christmas service and had nothing left for me and I was hurt and I was angry and I was exhausted and I, by God, was not going to watch that damn TV special with her. It was mean and petty of me; not my finest moment.
Mary came back to say that they were waiting for me and I gruffly said I was not coming. They were to start without me. Mary carried back the message.
A little later, Kim herself came in, very tentative, very fragile. She said she couldn’t watch the shows without me. “Aren’t you coming?” I looked at her and she was so sweet and scared and brave. The anger melted away. How could I be mad with her? What was I thinking? This was Kimmie, this was my love, this was our last Christmas together, and she wanted to watch Charlie Brown and Grinch with me just as we always did. What the hell was I thinking? How could I be so petty and spiteful and mean? It was Christmas and it was all the Christmas we would ever have together. I put my arm around Kim and we went to watch our Christmas traditions, her head on my shoulder.
We spent Christmas day together as well, the four of us, and around dinner time Joe and Mary and I went out to see what we could find to eat. All that open in downtown Morristown was an Indian restaurant. I thought of the end of A Christmas Story, where the family winds up at a Chinese restaurant for dinner. Like them, we had a very fine Christmas meal of foods that I never had for the holiday before. All was calm, all was bright that evening. I had friends; I still had Kim. It was the worst and sweetest Christmas at the same time.
After the first of the year, I insisted that the doctor give Kim the prognosis himself or I would tell her. She and I never kept secrets like that from each other before and I wasn’t going to start now. He did, she did decline, and by the first week in March, she was gone.
Physically. She was and is still in my heart.
The traditions we make are important. Not simply the ones that are handed down to us, although those are important as well. It’s the ones we choose for ourselves that are the most important and the most memorable, I think. No Christmas, no Holiday season, is more important than the one we have now because now is all we really have – tomorrow is only a hope, not a promise. Whatever the season means to you, celebrate it. Even when it seems dark, there is still something to celebrate.
Io Saturnalia! Happy Hanukah! A Splendid Kwanza!
Merry Christmas. May your days be merry and bright.
MONDAY: Mindy Newell