In sickness, and in health, doesn’t just refer to marriage

We’ve had a number of Christmases in a row now where sickness was the major feature.  Five in all.

In some ways the first of them was the worst.  My father was suffering from a yet undiagnosed brain tumor.  My mother held together until the day after I came home from Africa, and then fell to pieces emotionally for the next month.  My brother who had lived with my parents for many years was, in addition to his usual difficulties, totally stressed to the gills by it all.  The Magpie was in Ghana.

The kids coped up to the crisis.  They bought gifts and stocking fillers, and drove down from Edmonton. They rented a motel room as there was no room in the family inn. They took me to see the Narnia movie, and we went to the Christmas Eve program at the church.  We drove around to see the Christmas lights to lengthen the evening a bit.

The next morning I got up at 5:00 and with gritted teeth said, ” We will do Christmas, regardless!” as I stuffed a large turkey for the oven.  And somehow we pulled it off for all.  Dad always did love a Christmas spread.

The next year my Father died on December 8th- just a handful of days after Mom was moved down from ICU, still with a tracheotomy tube in place.   They were one room apart.  Hospital regulations would not allow them to share the same room because they both had resistant staphylococcal infections.  I didn’t understand it.  But the staff were kind, hoisted Mom up in a sling, rounded up portable oxygen and wheeled her down to spend time with Dad. On his last good day they sat with her hand laid on his, drinking up each other’s eyes.  Mom was still in hospital over Christmas and longer.

The next year she lay in yet another coma on Christmas-after fighting back to eight pretty good months at home.  We had been keeping one person at her bedside around the clock for two weeks.  On Christmas day the kids took the early shift while I prepared the turkey and then for one brief hour, we pulled everyone from the hospital and all sat around the table together and ate. She died Boxing Day evening.

Last Christmas my brother had a crisis and was in the hospital for two weeks over Christmas.

This year no one died in December, or seemed about to die, or was hospitalized.

I shopped, and baked, and cleaned house.  Our daughter and her husband and little one were to come Sunday night.  The boys were expected on Tuesday.  Christmas was basically a pre-event because our daughter’s family had to travel on Boxing Day.

Monday, my son-in-law did indeed come down with a stomach flu the rest of the family had had earlier and we thought he’d dodged.

By Wednesday night my husband showed symptoms.

And on Christmas Eve, just after Santa had tiptoed around delivering stockings, first one son, and then the other, and then I, were hit  with the heave and trots bug. In a moment of calm, around 3:00 a.m. it was actually, “Just too funny!” Come Christmas the house resembled an infirmary littered with prone bodies and strategically placed ice cream buckets.  And indeed, Janet was left with preparing the meal.  She served it as late as possible and still there were loads of left-overs.  Personally, I didn’t even consider the option- just pass me another glass of ginger ale, will you?

We were together though.  Nobody complained.  And so far, knock on wood, my brother seems to be immune.

My son-in-law would be excused for wondering what he married into.  “Is Christmas in crisis the norm for your family?  Is this a necessary tradition?



  1. Lila said

    Quite a Tail!!

    Get the Magpie to tell you about our en-Abeled Christmases!

  2. adisasullivan said

    Okay- will do

  3. Janet said

    Did I tell you that Robyn is blaming her/her husband’s/her daughter’s recent blow of Norwalk on my Christmas gift to her? Sheesh!

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