A Christmas List

It’s a week until Christmas and here is what is happening at Chez Goates:

a) I took Charlie to a ballet, his first ever. Of course we saw The Nutcracker and I was literally perched on the edge of my seat the entire time. There were so many years where things of beauty like taking in a matinee at Capitol Theatre were out of the question. And yet, I LOVE IT. SO SO MUCH. I love the symphony, the ballet, plays, Shakespeare, art shows, readings, book launches—all of it. I am drawn to the arts like Jeff is drawn to technology and Henry is drawn to athletics. I thrive on it. I yearn for it. Charlie was mesmerized during Act I. He got bored in Act II. But he sat through an entire performance, which is something I would never considered attempting in years past. He has grown so much. Also, I’m proud of myself because when I saw all the moms there with their little girls in dresses, I felt no stab of bitterness. The thought that ran through my mind was, “I’m here with my charming little son and we are both seriously quite jazzed about it. Carry on.”

b) Jack is still hospitalized for psychiatric treatment. He’s doing so great there that I still fantasize about recreating it in some other location, or better yet, finding a way for Jack to stay on indefinitely. (Hey guys, mind building Jack a little shanty in the unit and letting him stay for a long, long time? Puh-leeeeze?) He’s so good there. It’s a perfect environment. We’re not sure when he will be discharged. Meanwhile, medication management is progressing and they are working on a structured behavior plan.

(Jack, taking a cab from the neuropsychiatric hospital to the children’s hospital with his caregiver to be seen at the Dental clinic. I don’t why this cracks me up, but it does.)

c) Charlie and I saw The Last Jedi yesterday and he is a walking spoiler. I keep lecturing him on what we can say to people about the movie (“I loved it. It was so good”) and what we can’t say (“__________ dies”). If you haven’t seen it yet, steer clear of Charlie until you do.

d) I’m pining for snow. We don’t have any at my house, to date. Is it too much to ask that I want my town to look like a New England hamlet from a Currier and Ives lithograph? Would it kill the universe to make my neighborhood into a picture of holiday nostalgia? All I want for Christmas is snow.

e) My dad is still on the morphine pump. These last few weeks feel like we are floating, suspended. He is in a liminal place, sort of here and sort of not. Meanwhile, my mom bravely sallies forth 24/7, staying chipper and tending him gently. I feel there must be some particular refinement that comes from caring for an ill family member—whether the limitations are physical or mental. It can seem endless. For the period during which the trial endures, it IS endless. Emotional fatigue is real. I don’t know what the long-term spiritual lessons are with this type of challenge, but I’m convinced they exist and must be prodigious. Someday I will understand the why of caregiving and the fruits it produces.

f) I finished teaching fall semester, which turned out to be the toughest term I’ve ever taught, not because of my students but because of my life. It kind of felt like I was teaching while wearing one of those giant inflatable sumo wrestler suits, but instead of a sumo, mine was a giant grief suit. And it wasn’t filled with air, but weights, strapped to my limbs, adding bulk and making every movement three times harder. Dear students, I still love you, even though I just taught writing classes through a heavy and depleting period of my life. 

g) I don’t possess the mental or emotional strength to read books right now, but I am enjoying my favorite holiday movies. Every night. You know what makes a dark midwinter night tolerable? Sweatpants, socks, hoodies, blankets, peppermint tea, chocolate, and classic Christmas movies. I give you permission to indulge.


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