Not all Christmases are full of Joy, as Graham has had to learn the hard way. He wanted to share his stories with you all this year, when we're all feeling a little less than jolly due to the pandemic, and getting used to the idea of smaller gatherings. It's a good reminder that, in the face of great adversity, life still goes on. Life has a fun way of toying with us, we just have to be okay with rolling with it.
by Graham Duncan
Christmas 2020 is probably going to be a bummer. I should know. I’m an expert on difficult Christmases. Don’t believe me? Feel free to join me on a bumpy ride down my broken candy cane memory lane of Recent Christmases Past. It ain’t pretty. But here’s a holiday thought for you; when you get a lot of coal in your stocking — light it up and watch it burn.
Ice Storm Christmas 2013
Toronto freezes up and there’s a blackout. I venture out into the wilds of Eastern Scarborough to care for my aging father who lives in a 9th floor apartment. It’s flashlights, blankets and a lot of stairs. After cooking meals on the balcony on a camp stove and sleeping on the floor, on Christmas Eve day, Emergency Services carry him all the way down. We retreat to my West End apartment which now has power. He immediately falls on the floor. Then on Christmas Day, stressed and exhausted, when I tell my brother that it is physically impossible to get my dad to the family Christmas dinner, a giant argument ensues. But at least we had a Sanagan’s Tourtiere in the freezer.
Stroke Christmas 2014
My brother — recurring theme alert — has had a stroke and is temporarily residing at Bridgepoint rehab centre. So, we transport the entire family Christmas — there’s nine of us, many brandishing canes or walkers — to the facility. I guess it sounds kind of heart-warming but, as the person in charge of cooking and transporting the entire Christmas dinner, it feels more like Operation Giblet Storm. And Bridgepoint had all the festive atmosphere of a Cold War bunker.
Stroke Christmas Part 2 2015
To the canes and walkers, now add a wheelchair. The only place that is accessible to all of us is my brother’s industrial workshop where he builds synthesizers. Nothing says Christmas like a rack of diodes. Also, my wife is out of town caring for her ailing mother. And then when dinner is all over I have to drive my dad back to Scarborough through a blizzard. Boxing Day, it’s me and the cat. Put a little eggnog in that rum.
Cancer Christmas 2017
After having my cancerous kidney removed in November, I remember almost nothing of this holiday season except I managed to go back to work just before the Holidays, gingerly hefting turkeys and inflicting scar viewings on my unsuspecting co-workers.
Care Home Christmas 2018
We’ve now unloaded dad into institutional care. The care home workers, bless them, provide some touching hospitality but there’s no avoiding the fact that the turkey is pressed, dad’s has been in the blender and we’re all in a “special” room, made festive with institutional fluorescent lighting and the loud hum of an adjacent transformer.
As I write this, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is laying it on with a trowel: Santa’s in lockdown but Walmart isn’t; I’m awaiting a date for my third cancer surgery; and we all wear masks all day at work. But you know what? Peter and company now feel so sorry for me, they’re giving me Christmas week off. Thank you Santa-gan’s!
The funny thing is, after all of this, I still look forward to Christmas morning. So remember, just when it looks like it’s going to be All Grinch and no Cindy Lou Who, keep on Christmasing and Happy Holidays.