OK. What the hell happened to the holidays?
What the hell happened to me during the holidays?
There was only a twenty- six day window for merriment after we carved the turkey, and I allowed it to evaporate. That is not like me.
Steve’s dad was in residence for an extended stay: November 26-December 28. During his first week, he had paralyzing pain in his shin; we were sure he had a blood clot. A doppler test eliminated that possibility, but poor Roger was confined to bed until December 12. During this time, Steve and I were like the downstairs crew at Downton Abbey. Stairs are a terrible obstacle for an 85 year old inhabitant of a California ranch. All meals were delivered. Meds were procured and dispensed. We cobbled together a walker-cane-tv tray-shower chair existence that eventually at least allowed him to get out of the guest room. By December 15th, he was able to leave the house to watch the kids visit Santa…but it was a challenge. (Thanks to Drs. Don Higgins and Sarah Kelly for providing exemplary medical and chiropractic assistance. Roger had house calls. NO ONE gets house calls. Bless you both. ) For the entire month, he experienced pain and immobility. We worried that he would develop a blood clot. I nagged and cajoled him to move around his room. He marshaled his energy, and rallied for family moments.
A history lesson is apt here: Steve’s Mom died three years ago, after a long fight with lung cancer. Rick, his brother, was living with his folks. He had struggled with some addictions, and home was a safe haven for him. It was his job, in fact. He was their Valet, to continue my Downton Abbey metaphor. Well, he really was chauffeur, butler, shopper, cook- the works. And then in October of 2011, Roger awakened to find that he had passed away in the family home. Roger was alone for the first time in 60 years.
I would describe Steve and Roger before that moment as estranged. When Roger called to announce his loss, the earth shifted.
Life teaches , even (or especially) in the harshest moments. The two remaining Dahls are survivors. Roger determined that he still had a lot of living to do. He figured out the posts of support that he needed, and started building them. Grief counselor, physical therapy, personal assistant, check. check. check.
The next steps involved re-connection for Roger and Steve. (And me, since I ride the side car) We invited him to come to Chicago. Three weeks after Rick died, Roger arrived in Chicago for the first time in more than a decade. We celebrated Thanksgiving as an extended family. He jumped right in: he met Henry, 4 months at the time, checked out Matt and Justine’s new home, had a great time visiting all the corners of our kids’ lives. It was pretty damn gritty of him to leap in, and it went so well that he repeated the trip for Christmas…and then again for Matt and Justine’s wedding. These were the only nuptials he was able to witness. Regrets- sure.
I think we all contemplated opportunities that we missed. Steve and Roger had some rough road to pave over, and they have decided to do it. The trick is not to dwell on the past, or to assign blame- but to move forward. I marvel at the determination in both men. It has closed the circle of family, and is a great example to all of us to celebrate together, love each other, forgive each other, forget harsh words, (or resist saying them) and value roots.
So now Roger can claim our zip code as his second home. He wisely eschews the harsh winters, and says he will never abandon his West Coast ways. This is proof positive that he has his wits about him, since I am scribbling this on a -37 wind chill day. And even though our home was akin to a prison during his convalescence, I think Roger enjoyed the clattering mayhem and the communal bantering. He was concerned about the rigors of travel, and was conflicted about leaving. We pushed him to go- not because we were tired of having him, but because we knew he would recover from what ended up to be a muscle tear better in the warmth and familiar turf of California. Now we look like geniuses, because travel and life in general has unspooled since he headed West.
He misses us, I’ll bet. We miss him. But we hooked him up with Amazon Fresh, so he can grocery shop from his Lazy Boy. I donated my knee-replacement cane, and Steve made sure he had concierge care from the curb at O’Hare to his front door. We ordered him a walker for balance, not support, and the gadgeteer in me accessorized it with a snack tray that slides over the handles . It has a cup holder! I want one too! I updated his I Phone, changed his passwords and found a Vault app to store them in. I decorated him with a reindeer sweater that he will probably not wear until next Christmas, but he looked damn cute in.
Once in a warmer clime, Rog and Anita, his Girl Friday, have taken over. He has been to his local Doctor, started physical therapy for his muscle tear, welcomed his first grocery order, and is doing 100% better. The nurse in me is kind of pouting, but I’ll claim he built on my speedy delivery of services.
That, readers, is why I have been invisible here. Priorities shifted. The kids recognized that I was housebound, and they recalibrated Christmas in a gracious way. Steve helped with things he has never opted in for. I The house had less glimmer ( and was easier to deforest.) I can scarcely believe Christmas slipped away.
The most important element, family, was ever-present. I have a punch list of warm memories:
3 babies and Santa
Watching Love, Actually with Roger and Steve
A perfect roast beef on Christmas, with side dishes by the daughters in law that were amazing
Steve’s pre-dawn trip to the bakery for a Christmas coffee cake
Oh, there are others. We’ll talk. But for now, this is why I was absent. Roger’s back. I’m back. Thank you for your patience. I resolve to be better. Of course, I always do. Maybe 2014 is the year. So please, sign up to be notified that I have posted. It will be my back pressure. I respond well to deadlines and expectations.
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