NANA’S HOUSE by Teresa Kindred
Just a few years ago, Christmas never came for me.
The year 2020 was difficult for many people, and I’m definitely one of them. My husband Bill was in the hospital with COVID, and I couldn’t be with him—and neither could any of his children or grandchildren. On the 26th, which is our twins’ birthday, Bill’s lung collapsed and he was placed on a ventilator. I didn’t see him until mid-January, and then there were numerous challenges and setbacks, and transfers to two other hospitals before we finally came home in April 2021.
Through it all, I still envisioned us having a family Christmas together. I left the tree up, decorated as usual and wrapped presents to put beneath it. It was a pretty sad looking tree, with a facemask as an ornament and the top section with no ornaments or working lights. (I can’t even remember why it ended up that way.)
In April, after just a week at home, I walked in and saw the tree and the presents, and the memories just smacked me like a two-by-four upside the head. Instead of feeling joy that we were home, it all made me remember the nights I sat alone, looking at the tree, praying and crying. I just wanted Christmas 2020 to be over, and I wasn’t sure I’d want to celebrate it the next December.
When my daughter came over and saw me taking down all the decorations to put them back in the attic, she said, “Mom, I thought we were going to have Christmas when Dad got home.” I heard the disappointment in her voice, but I couldn’t bring myself to go through with it. I just wanted to move on.
It reminded me of Christmas 1990, just a few months after my mother had died. All I remember about Christmas that year is wanting it to be over. I put on a happy face and acted my role, but my heart wasn’t in it. I was so relieved when it was finally over because everything I did that Christmas brought back memories of her. I hid my tears, but I cried with every present I wrapped because she wouldn’t be there to watch her grandchildren open their gifts.
Still, there are reasons to celebrate.
Sometimes you just have to look harder for them. The day Bill was released from rehab and we came home, friends lined our driveway with cars and John Deere tractors—lots of tractors. Our church friends made signs with Bill’s favorite Bible verses on them and posted them on either side of our road. I loved the signs so much I brought them inside and placed them around the den by the tree.
Every day since then, I have tried to not take anything for granted. I’m still so thankful that we were able to bring Bill home and watch him get stronger every day.
A good friend suggested that I may have some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder. She’s probably right. The fact that Bill can’t remember the majority of what happened to him is a blessing. But I do remember; I remember every scary moment and then some, and I’m still not over it. But I will learn to live with it.
Thanksgiving is becoming my big holiday now. I’ve always liked it better anyway and after the year we had, I know exactly how much I have to be thankful for.
I’m thankful for good friends who supported us and prayed for us. I’m thankful that the people who are running in and out of our bedroom are our grandchildren and not doctors and nurses. I’m grateful to sleep in my own bed and not a plastic fold-out recliner that woke me up in the middle of the night when it tried to snap me up like a Venus Flytrap.
And I’m thankful for the lesson that Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect.
Life happens and challenges come our way. Sometimes we have to celebrate Christmas a few weeks early or five days late. But it still brings opportunities to see and bond with our grandkids, and that’s always good. Our families—especially our grandkids—are among the best reasons to celebrate on any and every day of the year.
Teresa Kindred is a freelance writer, former teacher, and author of several books, including The Faith-Filled Grandmother. She’s the mom of five grown children and “Nana” to seven precious grandchildren. She and her husband live in Kentucky. Her blog for grandparents is at NanaHood.com.