Bad Christmas



t’s hard for me to remember a truly “bad” Christmas. I have been blessed for most of my life. I can truly say that most of my Christmases have been nice to some degree: Being with family and friends, exchanging gifts. So when I did Japanese Studies at Waseda in 1984, it was my first Christmas alone. I was a poor soul, as I mentioned in a previous post, and could not even afford a phone back then–for those of you who don’t know, it cost something like 60,000 yen to “purchase” a phone number in Japan (this is re-sellable), which is probably why cell phones took off like a rocket with young people in Japan before it did here.

Anyway, I couldn’t even phone home. I have no presents to speak of, and the only thing I had that was Christmassy were three greeting cards I had received and scotch-taped to the wall. But I was healthy, and living in Japan on my own, studying what I wanted to study. The situation was “self-inflicted”, so to speak, so I could live the consequences, albeit by myself, with a bottle of shochu (soju), and a small TV.

Well last week, when I saw my beloved Bruins lose to the Wyoming Cowboys, I had no inkling that this Christmas would develop into a badder Christmas. After the game and doing some more grading, then cooking the ham for the Christmas Eve get together we were having the next day–I was cooking in the middle of the night–I decided to check my e-mail at 8 in the morning before going to bed. To my shock, I learned the mother of my former boss had passed away.

“The mother of a former boss?” you my ask. Yes, she was very special to me. She was kind and generous and firm when I was a rambunctious youth. As I have written here before, my boss and I got along very well and was in many ways my elder sister. Her mother was my mother. Of course, she was like everyone’s mother. (There is a lot missing in the details; I am still sorting out any limitations there might be.) But we would watch the store every night, she would cook dinner six days a week for those of us still at the store after 7PM, and I would drive her home after we closed shop at 9PM–10 PM Friday to Sunday.

She was deific. She could do nothing wrong. She was the sweetest person I have ever known or ever will. She was over 100 years old when she died last week.

I thought about going to LA immediately for the funeral this past weekend, but the next morning, Chrismas Eve, I woke up with a fever. By late afternoon, I was at 100ーF by late afternoon and 104ー by midnight. I was delirious. No way I could get to LA. I could barely send off a coherent email of condolence to the mortuary. For most of four days, I was horizontal–short of breath, hacking, burning up, only to sweat out tons of fluids as M lowered my fever with force-fed Tylenol, then getting chills as my fever worked its way back up. I finally got to the doctor the day after Christmas.

I had told M to have everyone open their presents on Christmas as they should, but the family would wait for me to feel better, she insisted, and on the evening of the 27th we opened our presents. I got underwear, socks, and sweats. Pretty typical for this husband/father, I suppose. Nothing elaobrate, always essential.

Besides the presents, perhaps the only good thing to come out of the last few days is that I lost 5 pounds. Go figure…

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