The Christmas season is fraught with danger.
I know what you’re thinking. We’re way beyond Christmas now, Smith, so get with the program, move along, we’re into 2013. The Maya were wrong.
Wouldn’t it be a kick in the butt if the Maya turned out to be wrong by about three weeks? Over a period of five or six hundred years that wouldn’t be very much. Don’t stop saying your prayers yet.
But that isn’t what I meant, either. Nor is it slippery, snow-covered roads that challenge those of you foolish enough to be sporting all season tires. Or the criminally inane among you who are stupid enough to be driving anything after having a drink or two or three.
I need to prepare you for this by creating the context. I don’t have to create it, actually. It was all real enough.
We had a great Christmas. Eleven people were here for Christmas dinner (I know, I know — there were those of you with many more, but you’re not writing this column) and we went far into the night opening gifts, playing games, eating too much and watching movies and all that good stuff. Accordingly, we went to bed much too late and much too full.
For the next two or three days this process was oft repeated so that finally good cheer and Christmas spirit began to take their toll. It tolled most on the older set and inexplicably on the oldest set of all. For some strange reason that turned out to be me. After some nights of getting three and four hours sleep at night, I began to feel the effects.
A good friend and colleague of mine who now resides in Wales, and I used to buddy up in being party catalysts in education and healthcare conferences.
We could go full steam ahead on until when dawn broke over the Outer Hebrides only three or four of us were left. On one occasion that included the minister of education We could never leave because it was always our room, and besides it was always my guitar. We’d shower, go down and have breakfast and go to our meetings fresh as daisies.
And then suddenly, quite suddenly, we discovered one day we couldn’t do it anymore. Without warning we had hit our 50s and along with it the wall of our endurance.
It was a sobering reminder of our mortality. So we stopped going to conferences.
it was the same with me during this past Christmas. I’d fall off to sleep in the middle of conversations when people were speaking who wanted to be heard. Sometimes the person speaking who wanted to be heard was me.
I’d come suddenly awake to find people staring at me as though they were hanging on my next word. Actually, waiting for my next word would be more accurate since there might be pauses of several moments between my last word and the word that should follow it.
My partner in sickness and in health allowed me to twist and turn — verbally that is — in my misery without support of any kind. She could have interjected words of her own explaining that what her husband had been intending to say before he got that frog in his throat was ... and so on. She could have but she did not. She sat back and enjoyed my struggles.
In those moments, my Christmas began to go downhill. So did my marriage.
And then came the fateful night we were invited to the house of a good friend to “see their gifts.”
I have to admit that this idea didn’t exactly turn my crank. But I was told by persons unnamed that I had to go because to refuse could be an insult to our friends. Didn’t want to hurt their feelings especially, so after thinking about it a while I agreed to accompany the rest of my Christmas family.
The floor was almost totally engulfed with Christmas presents, as befitted a household with three teenagers. A space was cleared for my wheelchair and I settled back prepared to be entertained by my friends.
The host asked those three little words that denote a host worthy of the name — “something to drink?” — and a glass of Canadian Club — sans mix, sans ice — appeared magically in front of me. It would be a pleasant evening after all with family and friends.
There have to be things more deadening to the human spirit than a young kid identifying every single item Santa had left in her stocking, where he might have found it and why it would be useful at some point in the future. The last thing I remember being placed on display for our response was a small tube of Colgate toothpaste.
I must have drifted off momentarily because when I reached for my glass of Canadian Club — sans mix, sans ice — it was empty. I further discovered it was empty because it was on its side on my lap and the contents were more or less liberally distributed along the front end — sometimes known as the crotch — of my pants.
It became painfully obvious over the next few moments that my family had decided the evening would be much more pleasant without me snoring through the gift displaying, especially when I was informed that over a half hour no amount of shouting, pleading or slapping around had effect in rousing me from my unconscious state.
I was unceremoniously bundled or shoved aboard the van and driven home. Being away from the daggers being shot in my direction by unsympathetic eyes was a welcome relief.
I knew that verbal retribution was forthcoming, but I was also aware of a truism which I hoped was still true: time, even a little time, heals all wounds. You know what?
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org