I remember one of the most stressful years when I barely decorated and my shopping was spasmodic. Daddy had heart by-pass surgery in November of that year. Complications put him back in the hospital in Intensive care in Atlanta over Thanksgiving and Christmas and beyond. Mama spent almost every night at the hospital.
My parents lived in Macon, Georgia, two hours away. Since I was teaching school I could only make it to the hospital every other day. Mama and I made a few short trips to K-Mart and Walmart to get things she needed and Christmas supplies. I took her some of mine. Mama literally lived out of her car because she wouldn’t leave the hospital for more than a few hours at a time. The nurses brought her pillows and towels and supplies since she slept on available couches and cleaned up in the restrooms. All that time she joked about the inconveniences and kept smiling. I didn’t know how she did it.
Mama started decorating the entire area of the Intensive Care waiting room and the halls leading to the rooms. She cut out decorations from wrapping paper and put them on the windows. Other women whose loved ones were trapped in their illnesses got into the mood and helped Mama. They put up a small tree.
One woman was there for her daughter who wouldn’t be home for Christmas with her small children and husband. Mama spread the word and everyone either brought in clothes and toys for the children or gave money. For a few minutes of the long days people were taken out of their worry for themselves and their sick family members. They collected enough money for the grandmama whose daughter would be separated from her babies and her husband to buy bus tickets from their home in Tennessee to Atlanta for Christmas day. They had no car.
That Christmas morning I spent a few hours with my daughter, my husband and my in-laws, and we did our Santa thing. Then I headed back to the hospital to be with Mama and see Daddy for the short times were were allowed to be with him. That was the first year our family didn’t have Christmas dinner at Mama’s house.
Mama told me how proud the woman with the children was to have them there for Christmas and for them to have a Christmas. Her husband had been too busy working and caring for the children to buy presents. Besides, there had been no money to spare. I heard every detail many times for the next two months, until Daddy was able to go home.
I was proud of the tribute to her and to the man she married at 17.
That Christmas our best gift came for Valentine’s Day. Mama took Daddy home with his oxygen tank. That was a difficult time for me and for all of us, but my third grade kid was a champ through those months, and we had many more unexpected Christmases with Daddy.
Now both parents are gone, but we have so many wonderful memories.