Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Akemi shot me a nervous glance; I knew what she was thinking.  The host of last Saturday night’s Christmas party was going around the room asking everyone to share their favorite Christmas memories.  She and I were in wordless agreement that we hoped he would stop before getting to us.

Certainly we have happy memories of Christmases past.  When put on the spot, we coughed up a couple: me listening to the Dickens carolers at the end of my Christmas Day shift at Disneyland, Akemi listening to her Walkman as we drove Christmas mornings from my family in Anaheim to Bing’s family in Palo Alto.

But Christmas took an irreparable hit exactly ten years ago, and we have been in recovery mode ever since.  I didn’t know it at the time, but Christmas eve 2002 was the last “normal” time I spent with Bing.  I was trying to get him transferred from Huntington Hospital to the City of Hope, but processes were slowing down for the holidays.  I thought Akemi was better off being in Peralta Hills with my family, but I found out much later what a traumatic time she had there, subjected to everyone else’s realizations that Bing was dying.

That Christmas eve night, Randy Huff came by his Huntington Hospital room and we watched “The Sound of Music” on TV.  After Randy left, I knew there was so much Bing and I needed to talk about, but neither of us could.  The next morning, I could tell the impairment to his central nervous system was worse, and from then on, we really weren’t able to have a conversation.  Chris Wong had kindly brought us a Christmas tree and so many others were beside themselves trying to do nice things, but there was no room in the inn for us that year.

As hard as that Christmas was, Akemi and I were to discover that Christmas 2003 would be even harder.   We could not escape the painful reliving of his last days, and could not bear to do the “normal” thing of being with either my family or his.  When Wendy and Craig offered that we spend Christmas with them in Cayucos, we jumped at the invitation.

The first thing Akemi said as we got into our car on our way home from the Saturday night Christmas dinner was that the “best” Christmas was that one in Cayucos, although she couldn’t share that.  I understood, and agreed.  It wasn’t the happiest Christmas for us, clearly, but maybe it was the most meaningful, in that we were given as much of a chance as possible to heal that first Christmas after, and a start to reconciling our sorrow with what should be a time of joy.

I can see that with each Christmas since then, our hearts have become a little less heavy, and the memories of Christmas 2002 a little less painful.  With each Christmas, I have been more willing to be back in the “Christmas spirit,” that is, until last Christmas, when I was feeling so awful.  So as we “wrap” this year’s Christmas, I’m agreeing with Akemi that this has been the “best Christmas ever.”  We have my health mostly regained, and my job retained (at least thus far) through a dean transition.  We have affirmation of love and support from many.  We had a ward Christmas program with music that was described as “epic” and moved the congregation to tears.  We even have heat and cabinet space in the bathroom, and Stanford in the Rose Bowl.  Ten years later, I can say that the joy of the here-and-now finally has overcome grief-filled past.

P.S. This cross-stitched stocking took me a couple of years to finish for Akemi, but I’m so glad I did – I don’t have the eyesight for it now! 

No comments:

Post a Comment