Alone on Christmas Morning

by John C. Westervelt

Freezing rain, sleet, and snow were forecasted for the week of Christmas 2000. I had planned to pick up Neldaís mom in Enid on Saturday and take her home on Tuesday. She doesnít like to leave her house empty for too many days in the winter. On the phone we decided that, due to the weather, she would stay home this Christmas.

Mary Kim, my daughter, and Robert had gone to his folks in Maryland. They were to fly to Tulsa late in the afternoon on Christmas day. My sonís family was at Sandyís momís house, three blocks from me. At six oíclock on Christmas Eve I had joined them for pizza. Back home at bedtime, the tree and other Christmas decorations stood quietly alone in their assigned places.

I awoke on Christmas morning to the soft rumble of sleet on the roof. My logical mind agreed that the Christmas travel arrangements were the best, considering the weather conditions. My emotional mind began to reminisce.

My first Christmas away from home was in 1950 when my navy destroyer stopped in Japan on the way to Korea. I wasnít sad then because I had roommates who were ready to go ashore with me to hand out some candy to the children on the streets of Yokosuka. Throughout the years that followed, I was never again alone on Christmas morning.

On this morning my heart felt a little heavy. In a conversational prayer I asked about this strange feeling and what I should do to take away the pain. The answer made good sense. Call someone else who is alone. The day before, a friend at church told me her son had decided to go home Christmas Eve to avoid the dangerous highways. I called, and we both felt better.

My second call was to Neldaís mom. She had watched a morning TV show and planned to watch the afternoon football game. She said, "Iím glad you called to use up some of my time." I shared my heavy heart with my first Christmas morning alone in 73 years. Mom added, "As I think about it, this is my first Christmas alone in 96 years." I no longer felt so bad.

My dear friend in Kansas has had only a few minutes to herself in the past six months while caring for her husband in their fight against myasthenia gravis. She gave me a few of those minutes in her Christmas morning phone call.

Mary Kim called to tell me they had heard about the Oklahoma ice and sleet. I told her I wasnít confident I could drive to the Tulsa airport. I didnít tell her how good her cheerful voice sounded. Good sense prevailed as we decided that they would cancel their late afternoon flight to Tulsa.

Christmas afternoon was a whole different matter. At noon my son Paul called to say, "We will pick you up." Sandyís brother, Randy, had already driven across town on the ice, so he was soon waiting in front of my house. Amy and I teamed up against Sandy and Brett to play a Christmas gift, "Cranium: A Game for Your Whole Brain." After an hour we agreed on a draw.

With conversation crisscrossing the den, Brett lay on the couch for an hour with his laptop computer on his lap redesigning his web page. It all happened so quickly; my grandson passed me by in computer knowledge. Nancy, an OSU home-economics major, knows how to prepare Christmas dinner. She doesnít know that when you get close to my age you should cut back. Still, Iím glad she hosted and fed me as our family celebrated Christís birth.

When I awoke alone the morning after Christmas, my heart felt fine. There is something different about Christmas day.

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