So I’m late and flying down Beltway 8 here in Houston to meet some friends for brunch at their country club.
It’s the usual Christmas thing. Food, booze, bratty kids and photos with Santa Claus.
My phone rings. I answer. It’s my father. He wants to talk about the Christmas plans. My mother isn’t doing well. He thinks maybe she can handle an hour with the family Christmas Eve and another hour Christmas Day.
Something is not right. His voice trails off. I ask if my mom is awake. He says she is and passes the phone to her.
Her voice is weak. Her phrasing sounds tired.
She begins by apologizing.
“I’m not feeling well at all. I am sorry but I’m not sure I will still be here come Christmas.”
“It’s okay,” I tell her. “I understand.”
“I know you do. I just… don’t have any strength left.”
“Okay, but you might feel stronger tomorrow, right? I mean, you just don’t know what might happen tomorrow.”
“I’ll try. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
And then I cried and quickly pieced myself back together in this fucking parking lot because I had to show up on time. Because, you know, my friends expected me to be festive, to entertain and make everyone else feel good. It’s what I do. I lay joy down upon others.
She never really made it to Christmas.
Nothing has been the same since.
In fact, everything has been simply awful, all of the time.