Monday, December 10, 2007
Scrooge Has Left the Building...
For most of our married life, we have enjoyed decorating our house for Christmas. Every year we would get out our collections of angels, snowmen, Santas, and other miscellaneous decorations and cover many surfaces with displays like you see here from this year's display. We always had at least two trees, one real one with all the traditional lights and ornaments, and the artificial one with mini-lights and ornaments that were made by the kids. Later we added more trees, a fiberoptic one, a ceramic one, and a few other little artificial trees. Mid-December until after Terry's January birthday found our house festively decked out for the holidays.
Then about 9 years ago, Terry retired from his job and became the Clark Griswold of LJ. I was still working, so he and the boys spent several days decorating, and we had lights, inflatables, and tinsel everywhere. Our house was beyond festive, and it seemed we bought more stuff every year. We had several animated figures as well as huge displays of holiday-themed stuffed animals. Tapestry throws and stockings covered the walls. Terry was very proud of all his handiwork, and since the kids took most of it down, which is the drudge work, he loved the holiday decorating.
All of that changed five years ago when he had a stroke two weeks before Christmas. While it was a mild stroke, and he had no physical damage, it did a number on his emotions and his cognitive abilities, making him very self-conscious. The holiday spirit left him in a rush, changing him from Clark Griswold to Ebenezer Scrooge almost overnight. He was, understandably, not in the mood to celebrate that year, and only minimal decorations were put up by me. In the ensuing years, Terry did not manage to recover his Christmas spirit, and we cut our decorating by about 3/4, but we still had our three main trees and our snowmen, angels, and some Santas. This was a manageable amount of decorating for me, as he still did not want to bother with much. The kids would come out and help with the real tree, but I did most of the rest myself.
I thought things were doing pretty well until last year, when Terry had all his health problems. If I thought he was Scrooge before, he seemed to be Scrooge on steroids now. He was NOT in the mood to celebrate and decreed that, for the first time in 37 years, we would not decorate, not even a tree. I finally talked him into letting me put up the kids' artificial tree so there would be something to put the presents under and so it looked like Christmas when the grandkids came. It broke my heart not to have our traditional real tree, but Terry seemed oblivious to anyone's feelings but his own. I understand that someone who is so sick tends to be self-absorbed, so I didn't make a big deal of my disappointment, hoping for things to get better the next year.
Well, I got my wish. Jacob Marley must have visited Terry in his dreams because he has suddenly become his pre-stroke self. His sense of humor and enthusiasm have returned. He doesn't even remember what things were like last year, and he doesn't remember not having a tree. The whole time has been blocked out of his memory. Now he laughs and tells his bad jokes all the time. While not wanting to be Clark Griswold anymore, he is ready for the holidays. He has helped with the shopping, the cards, the decorating, even the wrapping, and we are having the kids out to decorate the tree this weekend. We have even bought a few new decorations this year, the first time we have done that in a long time. He is eager to go and see Drew's Christmas program and even suggested we spend the night instead of rushing home afterward.
It looks like the grandchildren are finally going to get to know the grandpa that Terry was meant to be and that they probably can't remember. I'm so glad that they get the chance to do so. He has always loved kids and been able to entertain them, but that's all been buried deep inside the last several years. I am really looking forward to the holidays, and I think he is, too. Life is good!