Mrs. T and I had expected to wake up on Sanibel Island this morning, spending Christmas in our favorite place in the world for the first time. Now that my mother is dead and Mrs. T’s family is mostly dispersed, it struck us that we might as well go down to Florida a couple of weeks earlier than is our custom, especially since I was already going to be in West Palm Beach for the opening night of my second play.
Such, at any rate, was our well-laid plan, over which we’ve been rubbing our hands with glee ever since we came up with it in January. But you know what they say: if you want to hear God laugh, make a plan. Life came at us very quickly in 2017, and instead of watching the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico, we’re holed up in our little farmhouse in rural Connecticut, watching snow fall on the front lawn and hoping that the Big Call doesn’t come today.
I won’t try to tell you that we’re not disappointed to be up north instead of down south. Seven winters on Sanibel Island have accustomed the two of us to the snowbird’s life, and we’re still having a fair amount of trouble getting used to the fact that it’s always cold outside. On the other hand, we’re also profoundly grateful, not just on this particular day but on every single day of our lives. It doesn’t much matter where Mrs. T and I are, or what the weather is like: the important thing is that we’re together. What’s more, her doctors tell us that we have a reasonable chance of being together for many more years to come.
Christmas used to be a difficult season for me. As I explained in this space four years ago:
Once I thought that Christmas was, like the song says, the most wonderful time of the year. Then, eighteen years ago today, my closest friend died, painfully and pointlessly, and for a long time afterward I found it impossible to rejoice at Christmas. I went through the motions, but there was a hole in my heart.
Ten years later, almost to the day, I was hospitalized with congestive heart failure. By a coincidence at which I would surely have turned up my nose had I encountered it on stage, I fell in love with Mrs. T at the very same moment. We’ve been together ever since.
I suppose the holiday season can never mean the same thing to a middle-aged man that it does to an innocent, unknowing child. For a decade it meant death to me. Now it means life, hope, and gratitude—which is, needless to say, what it’s supposed to mean. The hole in my heart has healed, and I now know myself to be the luckiest person imaginable…
I still feel that way.
Yes, Mrs. T and I have a lot to worry about these days—but neither one of us has to do it alone. That makes all the difference in the world. And whatever Christmas means to you, wherever you happen to be spending it, my prayer is that your own life may be no less full of hope, gratitude, and reasons to rejoice.
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“The Difficult Season,” written and performed by Dave Frishberg:
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent, performed by Nancy LaMott and Christopher Marlowe on Live with Regis & Kathie Lee. This episode aired on December 22, 1994. Nancy died a year later: