Kage Baker burned with a high, exhausted exhilaration by this time of the holiday cycle. The house pulsed with coloured lights and candles; we had all the goods for the Christmas feast, the tree grew more magnificent by the hour as the winter light faded to darkness, and all the presents were purchased. The few hysterical last minute trips out for forgotten gifts or condiments don’t really count …
That last Christmas Eve, we were totally unaware that Kage was dying. No, really – we knew she had been ill, and was still very sick; but we thought it was all post-surgical stuff, you know? We were disabused of that happy illusion just before midnight on Christmas Eve: I developed an historical case of gastroenteritis, Kage began having horrendous head pain, and eventually we both collapsed in the bathroom, trying to hold one another up and eventually sliding down the wall. We lay there giggling and moaning, and I finally managed to crawl into the living room and phone 911.
They took us both away to the hospital. I got inordinate amounts of IV fluids; Kage was rushed into a CAT scan and thus appraised of the tumour in her brain. “And mine of all brains!” she lamented as we lay on our gurnies waiting to see what happened next. “Happy fucking Christmas to us!”
Yep. Happy fucking Christmas. I got home in two days, to a house where all the decorations looked like weird props for a surrealistic play; Kage arrived a few days later. Kimberly came and rescued me from our disordered home by cleaning and grocery shopping. When Kage got home and was installed in her bedroom by large, attentive fireman (Pismo being the kind of small town where the Emergency crews were all firefighters) we thought we had six months to prepare for her death.
What she got was about a week. We had time to make announcements, and set up a visiting roster; I had a few epic fights with doctors who were loathe to prescribe opiates to someone who had at least half a year to live – proving to me, at least, that they had no more idea of what was going on than I did. Anyway, I was able at least to make sure that Kage was pain-free for her last days … by the time our first visitors arrived, Kage was feeling amazingly good, and was able to receive her guests with aplomb and enjoyment.
It was a happy day. Her sister Anne was there, with Kage’s nieces Kate and Anne. (No apple was permitted to ever fall far from the Baker tree.) Kage’s beloved son-surrogate, Wayne, make an utterly unexpected arrival, and stayed with Kage all day. Towards sunset, she fell asleep – and simply never woke up.
It was the worst Christmas of my life. I doubt that this is a surprise to anyone, Dear Readers. So why do I go over it again today? Nothing horrible is happening – but I have been sick. My whole household has been felled, stomped and otherwise assaulted by influenza; we are better now but not well. And so our staggering, hacking forays to get the house ready for Christmas Day have brought the past very much to my mind.
This is also why I have not written, Dear Readers – the initial attack of the influenza left me gasping and griping under my blankets, unable to do much about anything. Except breathe. Sorry, all, but my success in keeping that, at least, continuing is the best thing to have had occurred recently. Some of you have undoubtedly been going through the same thing. My condolences to you all.
But! It really is Christmas Eve, and even though our plague house has been low on seasonal victories – no one is dressed up, presents are sparse (I have personally lost about 4 gifts in the rumpled morass of my room), STILL: we have the feast ready to go. The tree and the lights are a coruscating glory. The house is warm, and my family is together, even if we do sound like strangling ducks.
Happy Christmas to all of you, my dear friends, and to all your households. Hold your households close in the light, and wait for the Sun to rise.
Because, you know – it will.