Happy Holidays

This piece of writing was written in April 2011.

It’s a modge-podge of true events and some light exaggerations. 

    The tearing of wrapping paper breaks the silence, penetrating the fog of sadness that grips those positioned around the tree. Aside from the lone box sitting in front of the two year old, the gifts remain in their designated piles; no one is compelled to reach for them nor is anyone ready to begin the process. Ignoring the depressed gazes passed around the room, I rub the worn carpet beneath my hands and stifle the cry that has remained on the brink of sobbing for over a week. Quickly, I brush away the tear positioned to fall from my eyes and avert my gaze to the worn chair that sits in the corner. The remote still sits in its usual place and the fuzzy socks we joked about are thrown across the end table. Without a thought, I drift over to the blanket covered throne. No one questions my actions as I let out a howl that begins in my heart and exits out my mouth; pressing my face in to the fabric I inhale the scent of her, the scent that still clings on even after she can’t anymore. Dreary from grief, I pick myself up and walk to her bedroom. I open the door and am

greeted by a solo chorus of her favorite Christmas carol. “Happpppppyyy Holidaysssss” she sings as we throw our boots off. “There’s still a few more weeks until Christmas, Grandma!” I shout as I take the stairs two at a time, careful to avoid the moving chair Carter has placed himself on. “Bawco! Bawco!” he cries, begging her to look at him and the magical feat he just completed, unaware that she can’t turn around from the chair and clap and cheer. I lift him down and switch off the device before I run to the corner. Stopping to maneuver around the oxygen machine, I kiss the lips that hide a gap toothed grin and lay my head on her shoulders, breathing in the scent of freshly washed pajamas. Not known to follow by example, Carer toddles over to our cocoon, unplugging the cord that attaches to the hole in her neck. Swooping the instigator by his arm my mother screams and calls for my dad, still unloading the suitcases.

Seconds pass before her tight grin becomes panicked, even more before the rest of us begin to panic as well. Covered up by the screaming toddler and my questions of concerns, her breathing becomes forced and shallow before the tube is eventually re-attached. The moment air begins to pass through her lifeline again, she coos at the red faced toddler. “Oh Carty. (Breath). Bawco knows it was an accident. (Breath). I love you so much. (Breath). Kisses (Breath). Now? (Breath).” Weary yet reassured of the situation, my mom passes him to me and he plops next to her, snug between the chair end and her paralyzed body. “Bawco, ow-wee?” he says, as he points to the long tube attached to her arm and the other attached to her stomach. Not giving her a moment to respond, I matter of factly answer. “No, Carter. That’s to make her get better. Right, Grandma?” A few beats pass as her smile turns grim but I pretend not to notice the reluctance in her answer. “You are so right, Natalie. Grandma is so proud of how smart you are. Hey! Are we having our sleepover tonight?”. We scream our response and the innocent boy’s question is dropped just as fast as it was brought up.
Around the time we decide on which pillows we’ll lay on and which movie we’ll watch, dinner is pulled out of the oven and plates are set. Before dishing out our portions, my mother calls in to the other room, “Mom? Do you want some potatoes?”. A cruel reminder of the disease, my mom begins mixing the potatoes until it resembles a liquid and places it on her plate. “No, no. Feed the kids first, Deb! I ate before you guys came!”. My mom looks to my grandpa who slowly shakes his head to confirm the lie before lowering his head again.
Blessings are said, rising above the low dull of the TV in the other room that is a constant variable in the split level house. Drawn to the sound, I quickly empty my plate and retreat to the now dark area. Lit by the fluorescent glow I see Carter’s chubby hand clutching a blue comb, slowly going up and down over her black curls. She winces every other pull, but praises his kindness. “Oh, Carty!” she says, “My hair will look so shiny!”. He shyly smiles and uses the moment to bring the straw of her cup to her parched lips. She opens her lips for him, but warns him that she couldn’t have anymore.
Sensing her cue, my mom and grandpa enter the room from putting the dishes away and tell us to go change in to our pajamas. Reluctantly, we trudge down the steps. However, I stop at the landing, perking my ears to what is going on upstairs. I hear the grunts of her lifters as she is transferred to the wheelchair and the soft cry she makes when her joints hit the cushion. The dull roll of the wheels stops short of the bathroom and the same ritual is repeated. As the door creaks shut, my mom whispers comforting words to her and promises to come back when she is ready.
I hold my breath and wait for the footsteps of my grandpa and mom to drift away before I quietly return up the stairs, seeking to give the comfort my grandma is in need of. Reaching the door, I carefully turn the knob

catching the attention of the red rimmed eyes that line the room. “Natalie. Come back over here. We’re going to open the presents”. I drag my feet across the hallway and take the small package marked for me. As my turn approaches, I begin to slowly peel off the paper. “Wait!” my mom cries. “Who’s it from?”. Scrambling for the discarded scraps, I gasp as I read the name tag. ‘From Grandma’, it reads. I glance at my grandpa but he says no other words than, “She must have ordered them and had someone wrap them before last week”. Observing more care than before, I gently peel off the top lid of the box and pick up the silver draped necklace. “What’s it say?” he asks. In between cries I answer, “It says: I love you”.