Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Christmas that almost wasn't

Sitting in the truck at the beach, I'm physically and mentally exhausted; and I always come here when I'm feeling like this.

Looking back, I have experienced the sublime joy of childhood Christmases and all those wonderful years with my own young children, as well as the utter heartbreak of laying my paternal grandfather to rest on Christmas Eve.

But this Christmas was like no other – a rollercoaster ride of extreme lows and highs that can be described as nothing short of miraculous.

I had spent Christmas Eve cooking, cleaning and setting up for our Christmas feast for 14.

I awoke Christmas morning with a smile. “Christ is born!” Then my husband and I attended Christmas Mass.

Driving home, I was busy making lists in my head of all the things necessary to carry out my dinner plans.

Back at the house, I put on my Christmas apron and got to work – but then the phone rang.

My mother was crying. My 89-year-old father was having difficulty breathing, and he had just been transported by ambulance to the hospital.

In a daze, I took off my apron, placed the hams in the oven on the timer, put my coat back on and headed to the Emergency Room.

My mother and my father’s sister were already there, and hospital policy dictated that only two visitors were allowed in the ER. I sat in the plastic seat and waited.

What was the delay? Was he unconscious? Would I ever see him again?

I thought about my beautiful young aunt – a second mother to me – whom I lost two months ago.

Coming to my senses, I began to pray.

It was a very long 20 minutes before I was granted access. I spoke to the doctor. He said that the chest x-ray was normal and prescribed an over-the-counter medication. Unbelievably, my father could go home.

Since my father had arrived by ambulance, he was in his pajamas and had no coat or shoes. We wrapped him a thin white hospital blanket, and my mother put the detachable hood from her coat on his head. The hospital slippers would have to do.

I finally stopped shaking on the way home. When I walked in the door, I put on my apron and jumped in where I left off.

All our friends and family arrived as planned, and dinner was ready on time. Throughout the long afternoon I kept kissing and hugging my dad, maybe annoyingly so.

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