Kage Baker loved Christmas Eve. I mean, who doesn’t? There are so many joys and delights to it – the actual celebration is finally, finally starting: the special food, the presents, one’s best-beloveds on their shining-hearted best behaviour, the tender and hilarious traditions hauled out from the basement or the attic and made comfy on the living room couch. The rush is over and we can all settle down to why we do this in the first place – whatever your particular why may be. Be it Mithras or the Christ, the point is the Birth of the Light.
Sp you might want to bear that thought in mind and stop reading now. I have some things I need to say, but no one has to listen past the pretty part.
Kage and I usually celebrated a private dinner on Christmas Eve, as well, before dashing off to sisters’ houses the next day. It was a moment of quiet for us two professional aunties. Our own traditions, our own time. And I realize that I should be meditating in loving memory on those times today, while being grateful for the fact that I am also sitting in comfort and affection at my sister’s home – which she has opened to me, in true sororal generosity. I’m a lucky old tabby cat and I know that, I really do.
But … people are complicated, you know? I can’t deny that under my relief and gratitude and, yes, genuine healing, is a simmering rage. Why did this have to happen? Why did it have to happen at Christmas? When I look back at “where I was last year” the pain is astonishing.
In another 36 days, the year of Kage’s death will end. But this is now the hardest part, the final part, the days when hope was highest and thus had the farthest to fall. I’m not past it, not yet.
Last Christmas Eve, Kage was recovering well from her hysterectomy. We were home in Pismo Beach, and I had planned an especially fancy Christmas Eve dinner – because we knew she was too ill to make it down to Los Angeles. She had an appetite, even. But as the afternoon wore on, I got a stomach ache and she began to complain of a head ache. They got worse and worse as the day went on. Right after dinner, I started throwing up and she developed vertigo.
The next few hours were a descent into Hell. The pain in Kage’s head made her dizzy and nauseated; she had to be helped to the bathroom. I was evidently working on vomiting up my internal organs – I’d half-carry Kage into her bathroom, dash off to mine, throw up, dash back … we couldn’t keep it up. Finally, I dropped Kage.
She was much thinner by then, of course, but still 4 inches taller than I was: physics works, and I couldn’t lift her up off the floor. I’d have managed had she still been upright, but .. . we sat there on the bathroom floor crying and – yes – laughing at one another, and Kage said at last, “Oh, screw this all. Call the ambulance.”
And I did. And they came and took us both away to the Emergency Room. I was easily stabilized with nitro and fluids and some high-end Pepto Bismal, but they took Kage off for a CAT scan. And then they told us she had a new tumor. In her brain.
Merry Fucking Christmas.
She quietly insisted on going home; there was nothing anyone could do for her there that night anyway. We finally got to exchange gifts, and I made her up a bed in the living room so she could watch the Christmas Tree. She slept. I sat up and kept watch.
It was then I began to know she would die.