Alone on Christmas Morning


by John C. Westervelt


        This story was recorded in 2001.

        Freezing rain, sleet, and snow were forecasted for the week of Christmas 2000 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had planned to pick up my mother-in-law in Enid, Oklahoma on Saturday and take her home on Tuesday. She didn’t 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.

        My daughter Mary Kim and her husband Robert had gone to his folks in Maryland. They were to fly to Tulsa late in the afternoon on Christmas day. My son Paul, his wife Sandy, and their children Brett and Amy were at Sandy’s mom’s house, three blocks from me. At six o’clock 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 no-travel arrangements were the best. 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 wasn’t 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 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 impending dangerous highways. I called, and we both felt better.

        My second call was to my mother-in-law. She had watched a morning TV show and planned to watch the afternoon football game. She said, “I’m glad you called to use up some of my time.” I shared my heavy heart with regard to 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.

        Martha, a dear friend in Kansas, had had only a few minutes to herself in the preceding six months while caring for her husband in their fight against myasthenia gravis. Sharing those minutes, she called me on Christmas morning.

        Mary Kim called to tell me they had heard about the Oklahoma ice and sleet. I told her I wasn’t confident I could drive to the Tulsa airport. I didn’t 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.” Sandy’s brother had already driven across town on the ice, so he was soon waiting in front of my house. After I arrived at Sandy’s mom’s 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 conversations crisscrossing the den, Brett slumped on the couch for an hour with his laptop computer to redesign his webpage. It all happened so quickly; my grandson passed me by in computer knowledge. Sandy’s mom, a home-economics graduate, knew how to prepare Christmas dinner. She didn’t understand that widows and widowers our age should cut back. Still, I was glad she hosted and fed me as our family celebrated Christ’s birth.

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


        Twelve Christmases later, I have not had another Christmas alone and shall not have one. For you see, in June 2012 I moved to Crestwood at Oklahoma Methodist Manor in Tulsa. Weather permitting, family will come. If travel is impossible, I can gather with friends on campus.


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