Christmas Eve

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.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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8 Responses to Christmas Eve

  1. Valerie says:

    Oh, my…there’s nothing of the slightest use to say…except that I’m here every day, reading every word. And thinking of you.

    Like

  2. Tom says:

    It was an awful time.
    The word got around quickly. Though we hardly knew you, we looked for something to do . . . and failed. Mary Lynn got sick, I got sick, Mary Lynn got sick again, and we didn’t do a damn thing but keep you both in our hearts.
    There is no good time for such abrupt endings. But what you have done, carrying on the tales, pushing on with what you both loved . . . that has taken courage, and once again I thank you for it. It is far and away the best thing you can do.

    Like

  3. inimitablej says:

    Nothing useful to say here either, other than I loved her words, and now I’ve found yours to love, as well. This was hard to read, yes, but also speaks to the unique wonderfulness that is sisterhood… Keeping you in my heart.

    Like

  4. Mike Bennett says:

    Kathleen,
    Please know that I and many others hang on your every word. Can the distant good-will from strangers be felt and be beneficial? I certainly hope so. Kage was the same sort of recipient from me and others. So, just know that when I see your post, my heart “soars like a hawk” and I read. God bless…
    Peace,
    Mike Bennett / Zimiamvian Night

    Like

  5. Michael Young says:

    K,
    I have not cried all week, which what I end up doing at this time of year thinking of all the family members and family of choice members I have lost, until now.
    I so missed Kage at Dickens her wit, dry humor and most of all her calming presence, at least for me anytime I came to the Greenman she made me feel welcome and all was well with the world.
    I am sorry that there was nothing I could do to help. I will always have a place in my heart for her and you because you are both my Aunties of choice

    Like

  6. Kate says:

    Please, Dear Readers: nobody cry. I just have to get this out. The year is almost over, which is good – but this is the worst part. You all might want to take a break until February 1st (though it won’t all be bad – we had some fun) but if you decide to brave it out: thank you. Your company is greatly appreciated.

    Like

  7. Luisa Puig Duchaineau says:

    Dear Kathleen:
    Yes, people are complex. And circumstances are complex, too. And tragic events have no respect for the calendar, the holidays, or even the love we feel for each other, whether near or far.

    I remember your message from last Christmas, and I knew that you knew, too. Yet you bravely went forward, doing the things that had to be done. You did them well, and those who could came to Pismo to help you and Kage as much as anyone could at that point.

    You have every right to be angry. You have every right to rant and rave. Or even be gently bitter, that’s okay. Christmas time has been a dark time for you (and for me at different times); when things like this happen, it stinks, period.

    I really find comfort in your blog here. Probably mostly because you are so honest (as you have always been, of course). Yes witty, too; and incredibly well written. I confess I often must stop and grab the dictionary, just so I can keep up and also add to my own vocabulary. The honesty is the best part.

    When you write of your feelings, I know you write the truth.

    God bless you, everyday. Even the darkest time of the year.

    Like

  8. Neassa says:

    I want to find words to comfort – but that’s not appropriate. You’re angry, and you have every right to be. This wasn’t fair, and the timing just added to it.

    We’re here for you. We know we can’t do anything. We couldn’t then. But we’re here – willing.

    All our love, Neassa (and Kelly, Mike, Mom & Dad and the kids)

    Like

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