I thought it might be fun to finish the year with a little humor.
Getting Together for the Holidays (Granite Grumblings, 2011) is a piece I wrote a few years ago after a particularly exciting holiday season. I suspect many of you have had similar experiences.
Cherish these experiences because it is such a blessing to have the oppoprtunity to get together with your loved ones. Just remember to keep your sense of humor.
Have a great New Year.
Glenn K. Currie
Getting Together for the Holidays
Christmas is over, and we have survived. But, lately, it seems like every holiday is a close call.
Our family is getting older. The kids are married and in their late twenties, and while we are blessed to still have three of our parents who are able to share the holidays, they are also getting older and less mobile. The combination has made for some interesting celebrations.
Last year, for Thanksgiving, the kids could not make it back from Colorado and Texas, and my brother-in-law was convalescing with us after just having major back surgery. Nevertheless, we decided to get the rest of the family together. It resembled a Red Cross treatment center.
In the kitchen, my wife, cool and efficient on the outside, as she prepared a twenty-two pound turkey and sixteen different vegetables, was internally running on a treadmill as she tried to maintain order in the chaos that reigned throughout the house.
My dad was spending most of his day in the bathroom trying to deal with an elderly affliction that would eventually relieve itself in a way that sent our plumbing system to its knees, begging for mercy. My brother-in-law was spending his time flat on his back in the living room, sharing his misery with a changing audience of wheelchairs, walkers and canes, that were in almost constant motion as they sought entry to that major attraction, the only downstairs bathroom.
As the day moved along (at a walker’s pace), my father, exuberant from his recent victory over our plumbing system, decided to walk without his walker, and tripped over our 110 year old (in dog years) dog. The poodle, who is also deaf and nearly blind, never saw it coming, and, as far as I can tell, never knew it happened. My father did a remarkably agile rolling fall, and emerged unscathed, except for some slight dizziness.
We then all sat down to a wonderful dinner filled with warm talk, remembrances and laughter. The events of the day were catching up with me quickly, however. And after getting everyone home about 4:30, I decided to make a quick visit to the Emergency Room to see if I should be concerned about the heart palpitations that started hitting around the time of dad’s fall. After several hours of tests and observation, it was determined that I was simply suffering from (surprise) stress.
Susanne, meanwhile, had managed to get her brother back upstairs to bed and we ended the day burying the stress under turkey sandwiches.
This year we decided to take a pass on a family get together for Thanksgiving, because the kids were still away and we had learned that we needed younger recruits to successfully handle a holiday. We decided to wait until Christmas, when my younger daughter and her husband would be with us. We knew this would still be fraught with some risk since I would be a pre-existing casualty for the season with recently completed bi-lateral hernia surgery, and would be even more useless than usual. But with extra young people around, the feeling was how hard could it be? For the record, I was still on painkillers at the time and cannot be held responsible for any participation in this decision.
The omens were not good, however, as our brand new washing machine conked out the day of the arrival of our houseguests. And let me state that although the Maytag manmay be sitting by the phone collecting cobwebs, there is apparently a two week wait to get a Whirlpool repairman to make a visit.
Despite this, however, Susanne, an expert in strategic planning, had sufficient clean laundry to see us through and she cooked the meal a day ahead of time. We felt ready to just focus on each other and enjoy Christmas Day.
Things started going wrong almost immediately. My mother’s-in-law wheelchair went missing from her room at the assisted living center and we had to borrow a different larger one which proved very difficult to get up the stairs to our house. The result was a lot of heavy lifting (but not by me). Then minor disaster struck. My daughter and son-in-law were picking up my folks, and while Craig was bending and twisting over my dad to buckle his seat belt, he popped out his back, which had probably been previously stressed working on the wheelchair. Craig, who is six feet four, then rode in the back of the Saab back to the house. It took a half-hour to get him out of the car. And we had to use farm implements (an edger and a hoe) as makeshift canes to get him into the house.
Fortunately, once in the house, we remembered that we happened to have an extra walker in the basement. (Doesn’t everyone?) This brought the vehicle count in the house to two walkers, a wheelchair (and a cane). I could go with this and write a new Christmas carol but I’ll spare you.
My brother-in-law soon arrived, still nursing a bad back after a year, and was able to provide Craig with lots of sympathy and advice.
The rest of the day went relatively well. There were a few minor collisions between walkers and wheelchairs, and the dog fell down the stairs once, but generally, it was quiet. The plumbing worked, everyone enjoyed their presents, and my father and I played Christmas carols before we all sat down to a masterful pre-cooked turkey dinner.
My daughter and wife, the only two remaining able-bodied residents (women always seem to be the survivors), were able to get my mother-in-law in her wheelchair back out to the car successfully. Then my daughter took her husband to the Emergency Room where Craig was able to get some pills that made him pretty happy.
In retrospect, despite the fact that ER visits seem to be becoming a family tradition, and the whole day played out against a backdrop of terrorist threats and mad cow disease, we all felt pretty fortunate.
We had survived another holiday, and in reality we were very grateful. We had been able to get together with most of our family, and we were able to keep our sense of humor and laugh off the minor problems, rather than crying over major ones. And it truly is a joyous time of the year for Christians. A day of warmth and remembrance and hope for the future. And I pray that we will have the opportunity for many more such holidays.
My only request is that next time, we demand that my older daughter and her husband also be in attendance. Clearly, we need a few more able-bodied reinforcements around for our kind of rowdy celebration.