A Joyful Season

Christmas @ 19 yrs old

1978 -Barbara and Santa Claus

It seems I can’t get through the month of December without getting sick.  I blame it on weather changing, lack of sleep, and the added stress. In past years I usually catch some sickly bug at the end of the month. Not this year, bronchitis hit me on the first day of December.

In my business life, I am an account manager for Earthwork Property Management, and I manage 560 property accounts. December is the busiest month of the year—wrapping up those loose ends while planning and preparing and for a new year.

In my personal life, I wear many more hats. I won’t bore you with the long list, but I’m sure it’s similar to yours. This December, we have the added blessing of health insurance issues to deal with. In our house that means two health insurance plans to research and decide on. Because of Mark’s disability he has Medicare and I have an individual plan, so double the work.

Add Christmas to this mix, with all the decorating in and outside, extra baking and cooking, cards to write and send, extra shopping for food and gifts and then wrapping them all up to look nice for someone special.

There are all sorts of ideas on how to survive the holidays. I don’t want to survive them, I want to enjoy them! There is so much to do and see. I don’t want to miss out on any of it. Christmas is the holiday most of us look forward to all year. As a child on Christmas night, I remember thinking how hard it was going to be to wait— a whole 365 days— until the next Christmas. I also recall on June 25th thinking, yeah, we’re half way there! Time moved much slower then.

First Christmas together-before marriage

First Christmas together-before marriage

Now time passes much too quickly, and every year it seems to fly by even faster. There just aren’t enough hours in a day to get everything done. December often feels like a society race to get everything done before the 25th. I love Christmas, for the reason that it is the day set to celebrate Christ’s birth. It brings a magical feeling to my soul. I enjoy all the activities that are associated with it, so much that I try to do them all. That’s when it gets overwhelming and becomes difficult to focus on the reason for this most celebrated day.

My wish for this Christmas was for life to slow down. I wanted to relish Christmas like I did when I was younger. Enjoy every minute of the season with all the celebration and no stress.  I know, a far-fetched wish.

So I’ve got bronchitis and I’ve slowed down.  I’ve already missed a couple of scheduled Christmas activities, which lessened stress but added disappointment. Yes, I’ve slowed down, but the rest of the world around me hasn’t, and I’m not looking forward to the catch up.

Family Makes Any Place Home

We wanted a baby for three years before our first child, Christopher, was born. Three years doesn’t seem long now, but at the time, it was forever. I was so thrilled and excited to become a mother, I didn’t dare complain about the sickness or discomfort it caused. I couldn’t understand how any woman could complain. It’s a miracle and privilege to be a vessel in bringing another person into the world.

Katie and Christopher, Easter 1986

Katie and Christopher, Easter 1986

I was astonished when seven months later I was pregnant again. Regretfully, I did complain about the sickness and discomfort the second go round. That doesn’t mean I love our second child, Katie Mae, any less. I’m truly grateful for her life and understand the wisdom in her quick arrival to our family. Honestly, she brought so much sunshine to us, and Christopher would have been lost without her.

It was difficult having two kids in diapers and it felt like they always needed help with everything at the same time. It was physically draining.

There was a few times I said to Mark, “These kids are driving me crazy. They talk to me at the same time and always need me.”

Mark jokingly replied, “What’s the problem? You have two ears, two hands and two feet.”

I smile about that now, but I’m sure I didn’t at the time.  It must be the reason I only have two kids. I ran out of ears, hands and feet.

He also tried to bring solace by telling me having two kids so close together had benefits. “We’ll get the toddler, or physically challenging years over, before entering the emotional challenging years of teens.”

It didn’t bring much comfort then, and was especially hard when they both left home within a year of each other. They were both anxious to start their independent life with college and work at the age of eighteen. All of the sudden we were empty nesters. It was hard when they came to us so close together, but even harder when they both moved out. Those eighteen years seemed to have past in a flash.

I wouldn’t trade the hardships. The children have brought so much joy to our lives and they have been great friends. They had each other to comfort when they were scared. They entertained each other, at home, vacation, and many months of nightly visits at the hospital. Sure they fought sometimes like siblings do, but they did chores together as well as played together, and most of the time they loved each other!

Christopher was eight years old and Katie had just turned seven a couple of weeks before the car accident. For two months I stayed at Mark’s bedside in a hospital that was sixty miles away from our home. The kids stayed at Grandma and Grandpa’s, or an aunt and uncle’s house. I will be forever grateful for parents and siblings who lived close by and were willing and able to have the kids stay with them. I appreciate the nieces and nephews who included our kids in their activities. No matter whose house they stayed at they felt welcomed and at home.

I was living in a nightmare. There was family and friends that made it bearable, but my heart was broken with Mark’s condition and the separation from our kids. I wanted to be with them, but knew I couldn’t leave Mark’s bedside. He was in a coma and so critical that he could’ve left us at any time. I hated that I wasn’t there to take care of our kids, and depended on family to do so. At the same time, I was deeply grateful I had family who were willing and able to give them all the loving care they needed.

Children are resilient. I’m sure they felt some disadvantages, but they never complained and always seemed happy no matter whose house they were at. Years later, when Katie reflected on the experience, she said, “Chris was my home.”

Mark with Christopher and Katie 1991 Just a few days after waking from his coma.

Mark with Christopher and Katie 1991
Just a few days after waking from his coma.

Family truly does make a place a home. I learned that when Mark was stable enough to transport by ambulance to Western Rehab which was located close to our Sandy, Utah home. I took the kids to visit Mark every evening for six months. We’d have dinner with him and do homework. When we were all together, Western Rehab felt like home.

I appreciate all those who opened up their house and made our kids feel at home. That includes some very good neighbors and friends who watched after the kids for many months, while I was with Mark in rehab during the day.

It sounds strange, but I really miss those careworn years.  I don’t miss the stress, just the sweet kids — and now when they come to our house for a visit — it really feels like home!