I would have chosen a different title, but I'm playing someone else's game. For those of you who have asked, you will receive something from me by the end of January. I had hoped to get that done by now, but Life had other plans. Two days ago, we put up the Christmas tree, a free blue spruce that uprooted during Hurricane Sandy. Had to wait to put up the tree until chimney sweeps came to clean the woodstove, document storm damage, laugh at my parlour dust and cobwebs. Should have apologized in advance for any expletives I might use. They arrived in a fancy fucking truck, wore uniforms with their names embossed into the fucking cloth. I told them my husband didn't marry me for my fucking housecleaning skills. I told them he had cleaned the chimney himself for over thirty years, still have all the fucking chimney sweep paraphernalia in the potting shed, but I can't let him climb ladders anymore. They were young so I forgave their ignorance, as I signed the fucking form saying they had done a good job, wrote another check. I told my husband he could have done a more thorough job. He smiled and said he didn't want to go up on the roof anymore. Uncharacteristic. Life goes on.
Yesterday, as my husband cleaned his empty-of-fish tanks for the third day in a row, I vacuumed and found Jesus. I'm not talking metaphorical, I mean I found Baby Jesus while setting up the creche. In fact, I found two of them, one that goes with the rustic creche and a rubber Fisher-Price Jesus that I put on a windowsill with Mary, Joseph, and three wise men. Originally intended for my sons so they wouldn't take the whole troop from the creche on helicopter war games, even the cow and donkey. My ploy didn't work with them nor for the grandsons. Joseph and Mary fought about who would be the pilot, both pretty free with the bombs and not above dropping a camel or two into the lava which surrounded The Bad Guys. But that was years ago, existing only in my memory, although I saved the battle worn GI Joe helicopter, and my sons have vague recollections. Life goes on.
We received a phone call that my husband's sister was in the hospital, meds for schizophrenia needing to be readjusted. On the phone, she is talking too fast and worried about too many things. My husband calms her down, just like he has done since she was diagnosed during college when she had dreams of becoming a speech pathologist. She is worried she will not be with family for Christmas. I tell him we will bring Christmas there to the psych ward, the way we did 15 years ago. He doesn't remember going there. I reassure him I remember and the place is not far away; it is better that she is safe. He cries a bit and asks if I know where the angel is for the top of the Christmas tree. It is the 5th time he has asked me this and also if I know where the ornaments are, if they are in the attic. I remind him he usually wants to decorate the tree on Christmas Eve, as his parents did, but we can do whatever he wants this year. He says he can wait, then asks me the same thing an hour later. Life goes on.
I check on an elderly neighbor and she tells me about Christmas shopping with her teenage grand-daughter who just got back from Utah, at one of those expensive farms for youth at risk. Her mother died last year from cancer and the girl began cutting and starving herself. The girl wanted knee socks, sixty dollars worth of knee socks. Both of us burst out laughing, the moment before too somber. Walking home, I get a phone call on my cell from a family member about alleged domestic abuse, and am sworn to secrecy regarding the details. Home, I throw dinner in the oven. I call my mother and find out no one is staying at her house until after Christmas. She says it is fine, Christmas is just a day on the calendar, and she wakes every morning just happy to be in her own home and still living. I forget to ask her if she liked the book or the movie of The Hobbit better. She says she has written a few Christmas cards, but so many of her friends have moved or died. I tease her about being just like the Dalai Lama and she thanks me for the comparison. Life goes on.
Last night my sons and I watched Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Not as good as the book nor the TV mini-series starring Alec Guinness, but well done film-making, use of windows and doorways, shadows and reflections. We also watched The Muppets Treasure Island, which none of us had seen, enjoyed immensely, memories flying by. We recalled our old cat that died who used to drag around a beanbag Kermit, then leave it in very particular places, as if she was trying to tell us something, in cat logic. My husband joined us to watch Red Tails, which was excellent on so many levels. I had a recurring sense of my father, because watching war movies was something I grew up doing, just to spend time with him. My husband, who is ordinarily so proud of his German heritage, cheered as the Luftwaffe got decimated, cried when one of the main characters fell in love, cried when some of them died. That is typical behavior for him. He did not ask if I thought the real ending was happier. That unasked question is not typical. Life goes on.
This morning, he was angry, asked me why the neurologist never called to give us the results of the MRI. I said he did call, two days later, and I explained the findings with you. That is why you are taking a new medication. He said, all of this is too much at one time. I said, yes, I know the feeling, however I have a great idea for a Christmas present for you. He looked at me, like a small boy would, with such hope, as if I would be giving him his first red wagon or toy fire truck. He was happy again and went back to making his breakfast. I didn't tell him I discovered it one night when I couldn't sleep, a leather bound blank book with lines to write things down, on the cover a quote from our wedding song, Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see. That night, I also realized I can do this, drawing on experience from working with children with neurologically based brain disorders, as well as autistic children, who couldn't even speak. Life goes on.