Sometimes, even though it’s Christmas, you’re not going to get the thing you want most. In Toby’s case, it’s to be allowed to take all the ornaments off the tree. In my case, it’s for Shel to get well. Both of us are learning to cope with disappointment as life swats at us again and again.
This cancer thing makes it seem like life’s constantly sliding downhill, taking a wild ride on a slippery slope,
resolving to a downward spiral. But then, maybe people who don’t live with cancer feel that way too, sometimes, maybe even at Christmas. This year was the first time in many Christmases that I decorated the tree alone, Shel had no energy to help, and Eric, recovering from back surgery, is forbidden to crawl around under the tree, let alone get up and down off the ladder dozens of times because someone (wonder who that could have been) got a tree that is too tall to trim on one’s own two feet.
I always need to get a tree that’s taller than I am, but I guess I sometimes forget that I’m not as tall as I used to be. I don’t think I was ever nine feet tall, though, as is this year’s tree, lightly kissing the ceiling in its corner location, perfectly situated for viewing by passing boats.
It’s a nostalgia-fest, putting up the tree. Jordan made this ornament in kindergarten, and that was 35 years ago. In those days, Shel and I hadn’t met yet, although he’s forever wishing that we could have gotten together when he was young and healthy. Because we’ve never known a life together without cancer, and that can get pretty exhausting, even amidst the sparkle and ribbons.
We try to reflect the joy and beauty that the season calls for, but this year our happiness seems like a pale reflection of its former self.
My lovely pomegranate ornament reminds me far too vividly of the CT scan of Shel’s lungs, all full of spots, and I’m so sad not to be able to see it otherwise.
We try to store up strength for the winter, but I can’t help but feel that we’re just barely hanging on.
My fury at his illness is really boundless, and I would take swift and fierce action against it, if only I knew what to do.
All we can do is breathe in, breathe out, stare death in the eye, and possibly, bake some Christmas cookies. That’s the ticket, get up to my ears in baking and wrapping and giving, and quit all this pesky thinking. Cookies, coming up.