One of the Best Ever.

Irish had nightmares nearly all night on Christmas Eve. She would cry out or whimper, and I would take her hand or touch her shoulder or leg, someplace where I could reach actual skin.

“It’s alright. I’m right here,”

She would gulp a lungful of air.

“It was awful. People were coming out of the ground to attack me.”

“It’s just a nightmare. I’m right here.”

She’d fall back asleep but 20 minutes or an hour later, she would cry out again.

“Baby, I’m right here.”

“When I go back to sleep I go right back to the same place in the nightmare!”

As the sun blasted in to the bedroom at 7 am., she apologized.

“I kept you up.”

“Not the best night’s sleep,” I admitted on my way to make coffee on Christmas morning.

Her sons had slept on the couches in the living room. I made bacon and scrambled eggs. When my daughters came up from their rooms down stairs, they ate left-over  chicken mac and cheese, a recipe I cribbed from a McCormick & Schmick’s the first night I did not eat in the hospital.

We set Irish up in the corner chair with the ottoman, a blanket around her and a ginger ale at her right hand to wash down a little scrambled egg. It wasn’t awkward, but a little too quiet, too restrained.

Finally, Irish said it was time to do presents. We put her in charge, and  she commanded that her youngest son would the first “Santa” handing out presents, and that the chore would rotate among the four kids. We opened presents one at a time.

The Christmas-gift clothes fit, and were mostly hits. One of my daughters showed disgust at wasting the tissue paper, so she took charge of saving it for next year. Irish’ youngest son started wadding up the torn wrapping paper and shooting “hoops” into another bag, and kept missing. He laughed at himself, and we laughed with him. Irish laughed at something, too, the first real laugh I’d heard from her in more than three weeks.

Her father called, telling Irish he loved her. She called her brother and told him she loved him. She took a nap shortly after noon, but got up to tell my daughters good-bye as they left to have Christmas day with their mother.

“It was so nice of her to postpone their Christmas there, so nice to have them here, today,” Irish said. She took up residence again in the corner chair.

I tried, unsuccessfully, to not dry out the Christmas ham. Her younger son mashed the potatoes. We ate at the coffee table. Irish goaded me for not bringing her a plate of mashed potatoes, spinach and ham. Surprised, I did.

She  made tiny balls of ham and potato to eat with her fingers, and ate maybe a spoonful. Scrambled eggs in the morning and now “dinner,” her first solid food in five days, since the operation.

Her older son brought got out his violin and played a short concert. She went back to bed again not long after dinner but called her sister, the veterinarian. It was long conversation, I heard smiles.

I brought her evening meds at 6:30.

“Thank you,” she said as I was leaving the room.

“For what?”

“For this. For taking care of me. For making this the best Christmas in a long, long time.”

I looked at her propped up on the pillow there with bandages covering half her face, bruises lingering on the other half, a barf bag at one hand and a bottle of watered-down ginger ale at the other.

“One of the best Christmases in a long time?”

“Yes. Thank god I have one eye, and both my ears and my whole heart.”

I just shook my head and smiled. One of the best Christmases in a long time. I could only agree.

About Erik Dolson

Erik Dolson is a writer living in Oregon
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