My mom absolutely loved Christmas. She loved a lit Christmas tree and the different holiday specials on television.
She loved it when we watched the Yule Log together on Christmas Eve, enjoying music and opening presents. Mom took great care choosing gifts, always trying to get you something you both wanted and truly needed.
Mom also loved getting me tacky gag gifts and I did the same in return, both of us always trying to top each other.
She had asked the doctor if she would live to see Christmas and he told her flatly, “no.” She turned to me after he left the room and told me not to pay his bill.
That’s the way we were. We liked to laugh, no matter how bad the adversities we were facing.
I can’t imagine what that must have been like for her, knowing that she would never see another Christmas; that the calendar was working against her. And so that was how we coped with it, with humor.
Shortly after she found out that her time was running out she asked me to stick by her, that maybe together we could make sure she lasted three more months until Christmas.
At the same time, she was also really ticked off because she loved Don Johnson, and he had a new television show coming on called “Blood & Oil” and she desperately wanted to see it.
But she knew that she’d never see how it turned out. “Will you watch it for me?” she asked me.
How could I say no? I promised her that I would watch every episode, every year, for as long as it was on.
As far as deathbed promises go, promising to watch Don Johnson was easy.
But helping her make it all the way to Christmas was something different. I told her to stay strong and I'd try my best to help her, but she was fading rapidly, day by day.
So the next day my wife Josephine and I went Christmas shopping. We brought wrapping paper from home (mom had a closet perpetually full of paper and bows) and wrapped her gifts in the parking lot.
Her face lit up when we walked into her room, our arms full of Christmas presents. There was plenty of hugging and kissing and crying.
She burst out laughing when she unwrapped the 2016 Calendar I’d gotten her. I’m so glad we shared a wicked sense of humor.
I brought my laptop and played the Yule Log, and we sat around listening to Christmas music, savoring every single minute.
And so, I kept my promise. She made it to Christmas, which we celebrated that year on September 8. Mom passed away just 17 days later on September 25.
Don Johnson’s show didn’t fare much better, lasting just ten dreadful episodes before expiring in January of the next year. I kept that promise as well, and watched every one of those awful episodes.
I’m glad we took the time to celebrate that day, because even though Christmas is officially on December 25, you can celebrate it any day you want.
We don’t have to wait until Christmas to be kind to each other. We don’t have to wait until Christmas to be charitable.
In that regard, every day is Christmas and we can celebrate its spirit throughout the year. Christmas Day is just that big old reminder that we all need on occasion.
As this will be my last column published this year, I’d like to finish off by wishing all of you a Happy New Year and a happy, healthy 2019. May it be a year of peace for us all, one filled with less tension and conflict than the one we’re putting behind us.