Christmas Eve Decision -- A poem
My daughter-in-law has MS.
One of the crueler diseases,
coming and going,
with no rhyme or reason,
Extensive neurological damage.
Pain, stiffness, numbness,
knotted muscles, and more pain.
Her life is a round of doctors, clinics, multiple tests, medications.
There are frightening procedures and toxic IV medications.
She never actually improves; at most the degeneration slows.
Making plans is difficult, hard to know how and when to plan,
each tomorrow merely a bad day or a truly distressing day.
Her family are in Mobile - a Christmas visit long overdue.
The six hour drive is physically impossible for her, but Christmas Eve
around 10:00 pm she wistfully mentioned her desire to go home.
My son has been quite ill, he cannot make the trip with her, but
eight to nine hours on a Greyhound will cripple her for several weeks.
She sighed, “There is an express bus leaving for Mobile tonight.”
How long? “Only five hours.” When? “Tonight, at 11:30.” Well, are you going?
“I wasn’t sure… I only have two days. I didn’t pack, no toothbrush, it’s too late.”
Do you want to go, to see them? Is this Important? “Yes, but,
Greyhound is way downtown and we’ll never make it in time.”
My son is reluctant to drive in a city he doesn’t know, especially at night .
It is a moonless night and dreadfully foggy; he is tired, wants to go home.
“Maybe you could plan a trip in a few days . . . .” he suggests.
MS is defiantly unpredictable, resisting normal pragmatic planning.
They are wavering, both of them, the moment will soon be gone.
I want to collapse – I cleaned and cooked and hosted all day.
I hand her a new toothbrush. “Come on, I’ll ride with you. Let's leave now!”
“But, I don’t have extra clothes, and we might not make it in time.”
I turn to my son, “It can be our Christmas Eve adventure, yes?”
I hold my breath, praying he will make the generous decision.
He stands up, looks thoughtful, grabs the car keys, announces loudly that
In three minutes the car will be headed for the Atlanta bus station.
The fog is heavy, the road hard to see, but traffic into the city is light.
Greyhound is in a rough part of town with twisted one-way streets.
We arrive ten minutes before departure -- four shiny black buses wait.
In fifteen minutes they are back, she embarrassed, deeply apologetic.
The terminal was terribly crowded, so many people trying to get home . . . .
Greyhound stopped selling tickets twenty minutes before departure time.
They pleaded and cajoled…no luggage to load…the answer was still no.
We headed down the fog enshrouded labyrinthine streets.
Slowly, we began talking about our Christmas Eve adventure.
I imagined us as knights, perhaps reluctant, but willing to engage the enemy,
only the battlefield was deserted, the conflict postponed, our honor intact.
Missing the Greyhound was unfortunate, but truly, unimportant.
But the willingness to traverse the cold dark city streets mattered.
It mattered Christmas Eve and it will matter for many years to come.
Christmas Eve 2012
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