It began in October--not Christmas but the series of events that made the Christmas memorable.
It began with a phone call from his girlfriend. "Your son is in the hospital," she said. "He is fine," she said. Only he wasn't fine; he was ill--not with a physical illness per se but with a brain illness or, if you need the common term, a mental disorder and all the stigma that goes with it. Like good, loving parents, we intervened. This meant a 1,300 km plane and road trip but it was the only thing we knew to do. For my husband and I, we knew nothing about this type of illness. With each question we seemed to fall deeper into a pit of research with no answers, uncertainties with still more questions and little guidance for us to help our son climb up and out.
That was episode 1. Then came episodes 2 and 3 within a span of two months. Our son was hospitalized after both of these in two different cities far from our home. So, while most of the world was decorating trees, baking cookies and shopping for gifts, my husband and I were driving to and from the hospital, touching base with the doctors and nurses, seeking guidance from anyone with knowledge about our son's illness. For someone who loves Christmas and everything that goes with it, I struggled just with getting through the day and its challenges; I had no energy to think about all the extra festivities.
We did get home before Christmas which was another answer to prayer. But I cannot answer the question, "How was your Christmas?" You see, this Christmas memory has yet to unfold because these events are happening right now, this Christmas. I do know, however, that it will be a simpler Christmas--where the exchange of hugs and laughter will matter more than the exchange of gifts. I'm looking forward to it. And today I'm going to decorate my tree!