It’s beginning to not feel much like Christmas.
It’s just a week away, and so far I’m anything but jolly.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving, we took my wife’s father to the emergency room. This was not an uncommon occurrence. The last few years he has been in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices on a regular basis. He has been poked and prodded and tested until we had almost accepted it as a way of life.
This time was different though. When test results came back and they told him that he had lung cancer and a considerable number of metastatic tumors in his liver and probably more elsewhere, he experienced a bizarre, brief moment of relief. We could see it in his face. There was a sense of, “SEE. I told you there was something wrong! NOW do you believe me?” And in a weird way, it brought him a certain level of peace just to know exactly what was making him feel like he was. Not knowing was driving him crazy, especially since he knew it had to be something.
Things soon took a turn for the worse and they transferred him to a nursing home closer to our house, where he lived for less than ten hours.
Needless to say, the holiday season this year has taken on a completely different atmosphere.
During his hospitalization, we tried to use normal holiday activities, like putting up trees & stringing lights, as a kind of distraction. It was a way to get our minds off of our own exhaustion and the issues at hand during those rare few minutes a day we had at home.
We’ve also been watching terrible, mostly made-for-TV holiday movies and some of my favorites like Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas and A Wish for Wings that Work. We’ve set out our extensive collection of Christmas music and listened to some of it. We’ve purchased and wrapped entirely too many presents. We’ve driven around town and looked at people’s lights and decorations. But there’s no escaping it; this year is just going to be different.
I will miss my father-in-law. We never had much in common outside of our love for my wife. And as a result we never had much to talk about. But I liked him. He made me laugh when he would sit and purposely provoke his daughters just to get a rise out of them. Or the way his face would light-up whenever he saw his Granddaughter.
His absence will be unmistakable to everyone in my family. There will be a hole where he was – where he should be.
But Christmas, like life, will go on.
He wouldn’t want it any other way.