Today I sit at my little house in Oxford, Mississippi, feeling surrounded by the love of parents, friends, and dogs. We spent one day in Jackson, Tennessee, and one day in
Clarksdale, Mississippi visiting our parents. This Christmas was different, though.
We lost my grandfather in April. Because of this, my mother didn’t want to use her dining room because there would be an empty chair. We ate spaghetti at the kitchen table, but his absence was still felt.
My mother is a saint. Her profession is nursing, and her immeasurable capacity for love and caregiving makes her perfect as a nurse. However, she also nursed my grandfather as his health deteriorated last spring. She was with him almost every second and was there at the end. I remember when he first started having health problems in 2006 that she lived in the ICU waiting room for a month. Her devotion and love is beautiful and something to emulate.
As my grandfather’s health got worse, so did my father’s. NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis) contributed to his need for a liver transplant. She went from nursing my grandfather to nursing my father consecutively. I imagine that she is tired, but she would never admit it.
This year, we had low-sodium salad and spaghetti (which my father is not supposed to eat, but hey, it’s Christmas, right?). My daddy now sleeps most of the day so that he isn’t thinking about this inevitable surgery (and also to pass the days while he waits). The waiting has been maddening for him who is at the mercy of time, as if he needed more of a burden on his mind.
So, yes, this Christmas was different. There was a cloud hanging above us, but despite my bouts of silent tears I was overcome with the love my parents have for me, for my husband, for each other, and for those who are no longer with us. I hope that all of your Christmases were similarly filled with love.
portrait of my mother, taken in the Smoky Mountains,