A Different Christmas Eve

It almost always seemed to snow for Christmas back then. How else were you going to use the new sled you found under the tree? It had to snow!

Of course, looking back in time the man remembered the Christmas he got the shiny red bicycle and how that year it didn’t snow which meant he could test it out right away. He rode that bike until he could afford to buy a used Chevy – also red.

The bike, the Chevy and the white Christmases were long in his past now. And, only memories linked him to that time as he sat in his wheelchair in the solarium of the nursing home in Tampa. It wasn’t a bad place but it wasn’t a place for a man who had spent his life burning both ends of the candle. He always told people that if he died tomorrow he would have died happily knowing he had lived like there was no tomorrow.

And, then on Christmas Eve, at the age of 38, while hurrying to meet the woman he knew was the one, he was hit by a drunk driver who ran a stop sign. His Corvette was no match for the oversize pickup loaded with construction materials. And, neither was the man.

They told him that he’d never walk again and that he would need nursing care the rest of his life. He had no family to speak of but he had enough of an insurance settlement to have himself moved to Tampa and into the nursing facility and away from his home in Ohio.

Away, from the memories he thought. Away from the woman he had fallen in love with and was going to propose to that night. That’s why he was hurrying. She had called him earlier and told him she loved him and couldn’t wait for him to get home. Maybe if his mind hadn’t been so fogged up with thoughts of her beautiful smile and bright blue eyes. Maybe he would have seen the truck running the stop sign. Maybe they’d be together.

She was still in love with him. She had fallen in love with him and the fact that his body was damaged didn’t change her love. She told him that but he didn’t believe her and he wanted to run. And, so within weeks of getting out of the hospital, he left her and told her he didn’t love her nor want her in his life. He told her not to try and follow him.

He spent the first year trying hard to rehab his body and his life. And, when that proved to be fruitless he fell into a deep despair. That was 5 years ago and there was no sign of movement in his legs. Also gone was his will to live or to love.

But, memory is a funny thing. The things we wish most to forget have a habit of holding us captive like the tentacles of a monster we want to slay. Always tormenting and squeezing us with their grasp on our reality.

And, so another Christmas Eve was here and despite wanting to forget the sled and the bike and the woman he had never stopped loving, the man stared at the sunshine and relived each moment – especially the ones with her.

Feeling the beginning of tears in his eyes the man wheeled away from the window and into the community dining room. There was music there and visitors and while he wanted neither he also knew he didn’t want anyone to see him staring out a window and crying. Maybe one of the old guys had a friend who had smuggled in a bottle. Sometimes they did that around the holidays.
Looking around the room he saw the same old faces. The same residents. The same family. There were the ones who came all the time and the younger kids who mostly only visited on special occasions. Other than some guys from a local veterans’ organization, he hadn’t had a visitor since arriving. Oh, and the minister who wanted to help him find God. Recalling the memory of that visit brought the first smile to the man’s face all day. It hadn’t gone too well for the minister.

And, then he saw the little girl standing next to the punch bowl. She was trying to figure out how to get the ladle into the bowl to get something to drink but she was too short to do without spilling.

Kids were always his weakness. Seeing a child hurt was the one thing he had never been able to deal with. Helping kids is what had always made him whole. And, so he wheeled on over to give her a hand.

“Hi,” he said. “Would you like some punch?” as he wheeled up behind her.

She turned around quickly startled but quickly recovering, she said, “Yes, I would. But, I can’t reach it.”

He ladled a cup for her and then one for himself. “What’s your name?” he asked. “Angelica but mommy calls me Angel”

“Wow, that’s a perfect name for Christmas. You must have been born on Christmas.”

“No, silly. My birthday is in August and I am five years old.”

Only a five year old can call a grown man silly and make it sound like the perfect description.

“So, are you ready for Christmas?” asked the now smiling and silly man.

“Of course,” she said between giggles and punch. “I’ve asked Santa to bring me a red two-wheel bike. With training wheels of course but I don’t think I’ll need them long.”

Now laughing at her giggling and precociousness the man said, “I don’t doubt that one bit, Angel. Not one bit.”

“So where are your parents and who are you visiting Miss Angel?”

“My mommy is in the office across the hall. We’ve come to visit her friend. Would you like to meet her?”

“Well, I wasn’t planning on visiting today but if you’d like me to meet your mom I’d be honored.”

“Take my hand then and we’ll go find her. She told me to stay here while she went to the office but she won’t mind if I bring a new friend.”

Rolling across the hall the man and Angel stopped at the closed office door. Without hesitation, Angel pushed open the door and called out, “Mommy, I made a new friend for you to meet.”

“Angel, I asked you to wait across the hall, sweetheart,” as she turned around from talking to the nursing home administrator.

Time suddenly felt like it had stopped for the man. It was her – the only woman he had ever loved. Five years hadn’t changed a thing about her. The same blue eyes he had been looking into in his mind every day since he left Ohio were looking back at him. That’s what he first saw in Angel. The same eyes and warm smile.

All the memories. All the emotions. All the love all came rushing out of the middle of his chest making him feel like he might explode.

“Lisa, what are you doing here?” he sobbed.

“I came to find you, Joe. I came to bring you home. And, I’m not leaving without you. And, I’m not listening to your bull headed reasoning. I love you. I always have and always will.” she said as she fell to her knees and wrapped her arms around him.

Joe’s head was spinning. Home. Love. All the things he ever wanted except children. And, then he remembered he was still holding Angel’s hand. He looked into her eyes and saw that she was also crying at seeing her mother’s tears.

“Angel, don’t cry,” he said. “Your mommy is okay.”

“Where’s Angel’s father?” he asked.

“He’s holding her hand, Joe. He’s holding her hand. I had just found out the day of the accident and then when you told me you never loved me I almost gave up. But, I couldn’t and I never will.”

“I love you, Lisa. Always have and always will.”

I wish you a joyous Christmas!

And, I hope you enjoyed this different kind of post.

Bob Poole

6 thoughts on “A Different Christmas Eve”

  1. Wonderful story about love triumphing over obstacles! Thanks, Bob. May the Spirit of this past Holiday Season bring you and yours joy, peace, health, love, and prosperity.

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