We should have known a year like this would bring us a Christmas season as difficult as this one was.
Overnight December 2-3, my mother became sick with what we thought might be food poisoning or a bug. She seemed to be doing better, so I was stunned when I called her that Friday (the 4th) to say I’d be coming early for the weekend, and she told me she’d been so bad that day that my sister took her to the doctor. The prognosis: maybe diverticulitis, maybe a kidney stone.
Mom did okay that evening. We watched TV, including the Monk finale, and had a pleasant time. Within less than 30 minutes of her going to bed, though, she was up and pacing with terrible pain. It was so severe I became frightened. Mom, not a person who complains a lot or becomes overly dramatic, was shaking severely and pleading, “PLEASE, please, please.” I called Diamondqueen and asked her to come help me decide whether to phone for an ambulance.
The ambulance, with Mom and me aboard, arrived at the ER around 11:30 p.m. Diamondqueen, who had followed in her van, joined us once Mom’s initial exam was over. One of the longest nights of my entire life began, as we waited for painkillers, for exams, for the drink Mom had to consume for the CAT scan, for an hour to pass after Mom drank the stuff, and on and on. They finally confirmed that Mom did have a kidney stone, but it was only about 2-3mm, too small to remove surgically. The ER sent us home with prescriptions for painkillers and antibiotics. We made it to bed around 7 a.m.
It would have been disappointing enough, since Mom wasn’t well enough to celebrate St. Nick that Sunday. We did exchange our gifts to each other, but gifts to and from the Hooligans were postponed and there was no get-together. However, the stone wasn’t passing. Mom kept the pain at bay with regular ibuprofen until the second week, when she started becoming more miserable. When she had her appointment with the urologist, it turned out her stone was MUCH larger than we’d been told. They got her scheduled for the stone removal procedure, miraculously, before her doctor left for the holidays. She came out of it very well, and we even watched some holiday shows that Friday evening.
We thought it would soon all be over, since she’d be able to remove the stent herself on Monday. However, she went into spasms (which apparently are common), so that meant more pain and more painkillers. The urologist’s office confirmed that the discomfort could go on for weeks.
I guess we’re all spoiled and I have nothing to complain about in being able to even say this: But this was the first Christmas season ever where Mom wasn’t able to do a single thing with me and the Hooligans. I watched in disbelief as days, then weeks passed, and one outing after another passed by.
Mom assured me (and still assures me) that she doesn’t feel cheated – that in feeling so bad, she wouldn’t have wanted to do anything anyhow. I know there are plenty of women at 77 who would have had interrupted Christmas seasons before this. Again, I guess we’re all spoiled.
It was hard, though. And to see my mother suffering as she did on top of watching my father die last summer was just a little too much. And I don’t like one second, let alone a whole holiday season, being wasted at this point in my mother’s life. But, as she pointed out to me last night, she believes she still has some good Christmas seasons ahead of her.
And it hasn’t been all bad news. I had some very nice times with Diamondqueen and the Hooligans throughout December, especially a unique overnight at Great Wolf Lodge (a separate story entirely). Best of all, Mom says she woke up this morning thinking, “It’s Christmas Eve! My favorite day of the year!” And she says she really did enjoy the day. She worked up the energy this afternoon to bake the Christmas cookies she’s mixed up yesterdays, which left me with only small tasks, like finishing the few gifts that still needed to be wrapped, running to the grocery for store-bought treats to replace the savories Mom usually makes, and sweeping up a little.
And the evening party of snacks and gifts with the Hooligans and their parents was delightful. Everyone was in a good mood, even the store-bought dips and bread tasted good, no one fought, everyone seemed pleased with their gifts. We waved goodbye to the Hooligan van around 9:45 this evening with a feeling of real satisfaction with the day. In fact, Mom even said as we were tidying up that she felt better then than she had on many Christmas Eves because she wasn’t nearly as tired as when she was knocking herself out with the food and preparations, especially going back to the days when she was employed full time.
Being able to make the best of any situation is a gift we should solicit from the Great Giver (however we view him) every Christmas. It’s not an easy gift to use, and some of us are better at enjoying that gift than others. This year, I’ve struggled as that gift got a workout. My brother-in-law had his heart valve surgery the week following his wife’s, Diamondqueen’s, birthday. My father had his stroke four days before my birthday, and he was in declining condition over his birthday and Father’s Day. We buried him two days before S.Hooligan’s birthday. How we managed to pull out all of the autumn holidays without tragedy, I don’t know. If Mom had had her kidney stone a week earlier, Thanksgiving would have been destroyed (something she was pointing out, with relief, from the start of her ordeal).
I guess the second part of that gift of making the most is being able to look back and concentrate on what’s good instead of what went wrong. Yes, I would have liked things to be different this season. But Mom still enjoyed her favorite day and we were able to pull off a fine Christmas Eve. That’s what I’m concentrating on, and being grateful for, as the quiet night gives way to Christmas morning.