Last Christmas I was busy making sure my house was properly festive. I was buying two of everything I was supposed to cook because I usually do a test batch of anything I make that is really important. No worries, I have growing boys so they don’t complain. I was sneaking around trying to get gifts from Emmer for the children and for Mom. I was making wine store runs because Emmer always insisted she furnish champagne on Christmas Eve when we celebrate Mom’s birthday. I had ventured away from the usual birthday cake and convinced Emmer to get hand made red velvet cake pops. They were a HUGE hit and Emmer thought it was the greatest invention since the wheel.
We were also determined to have Emmer with us on Christmas. Johnny was busy building a wheelchair ramp to make Mom’s house accessible. I worked diligently for days to convince Emmer that she could make it to Mom’s for our traditional Christmas Eve shrimp creole. She told me it was too much work for everyone. I remembering sitting beside her chair, holding her hand and explaining that it wouldn’t be Christmas knowing she was in her room alone. She came for Christmas Eve dinner. She dined on shrimp creole. She scooped up her Charlotte Rousse, made by yours truly as a bribe to get her to come to dinner. She drank, um maybe even guzzled her champagne (until the day she died she wanted a refrigerator in her room so she could have her own cold drinks). She sang Happy Birthday to my Mom when we brought out the cake pops. She delighted in the excitement on the boys’ faces when they opened the WiiU she gave them. She tried to understand what exactly she had given them and finally she just said “well cheers”! She was weak, but more than that she was determined. Determination always conquered her weakness.
As we sat around the table that night with friends we have shared Christmas Eve with for decades, I think we all knew it would be her last. I think she knew. Lord knows she had been ready years before for it to be her last, but her body just kept on ticking. She was frail, but she looked beautiful. She had on the outfit and jewelry she and I had chosen earlier that day. She wasn’t pleased with her hair because her weekly beauty parlor appointment had been 5 days before and by then it sorta showed. It had been her bath night the night before so she felt clean and smelled sweet. She was determined and I am so thankful we had that Christmas together as a family.
This year the shopping has been different. I can’t store hop for everyone so if you were lucky enough to have your gift purchased before Dec 2, you are lucky. If not, well then you are lucky to get something. I haven’t had the energy to decorate so we hung stockings and put up a 4′ artificial pre-lit tree. I put my Grandmother Payne’s angel topper on it, hung some balls on the tree and called it quits. I feel guilty letting weakness beat out determination. That is not the way I was taught. But this year I am worn down and I ache.
The shock of the last few weeks has been overwhelming. The reality of my future with epilepsy is beginning to sink in. I am just beginning to understand that I really am going to be taking medicine for the rest of my life. There is no cure. I went 8 years without a grand mal. I had learned to cope with small seizures here and there, but this caught me off guard. It took the breath out of me, in more ways than the obvious. I realize that I will always be planning for the what if. On the bright side of things I did get some new jewelry, granted it is a medical ID bracelet, but it is purple and it is jewelry so I will take it. I hope the day will come when my husband, my Mom and my brother don’t feel like they need to call me every few hours to be sure I’m ok. I want my children not to worry about their mom. I know there are a multitude of people waiting to help me at a moment’s notice. I need to know that I can figure out how to cope with the inability to drive on my own, so that I won’t live in fear of another bad seizure. I need to know that at 40 years old, I can have some form of independence. I have been shaken and I’m still stirred right now.
This has not been the most stellar of years for us, but I wouldn’t go back in time, because I really do NOT want to relive it again. I remember with bittersweet tears our last Christmas with our matriarch and I know my Mother is equipped to hold that torch now. I take tremendous joy in the 6 years I had with Emmer and her first mate. Her humor, her honesty, her debates, her tears and her bountiful love for her family are simply unmatched. Nothing can take away those memories. It was her bountiful love that gave her the strength to have one last Christmas with all of us. It is her gift that keeps on giving.
So I look back on 2013 with joy and sorrow swirled together. I also find it appropriate to quote the great philosopher Flo, and say, “2013 you can kiss my grits.” I’m pretty sure Emmer just rolled over in her grave as she quietly explains away my candidness from a brain injury. I’m stirred, I’m afraid, but I am determined this will pass. From this point of view I must believe it only gets better because in my darkest hours over the last 8 years I can look back and see the sun was always streaming through the clouds.
© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, December 2013