At sunrise my three brothers, sister and myself would head down the steps of our Victorian home to start Christmas day. Our brightly wrapped gifts and perfect Christmas tree were a sight to behold.
“Don’t open anything until Mom and Dad come down.” my sister said.
We sat sleepy-eyed and waited in the glow of the tree. Mom came down the steps and quickly pointed out which gifts were for each of us. Dad would come down in his pajamas and a robe. We only saw him like this once a year.
The unwrapping of gifts lasted about twenty minutes. You would hear somebody cry out “Oh, just what I wanted!” Some toys would be broken within an hour, others would last for years. A breakfast including sticky buns, eggs, bacon and hotcakes. A roast of prime rib for dinner with mashed potatoes and rich brown gravy. These traditions were kept year after year, making for some unforgettable memories.
At fifty-seven sometimes I am mature, but these days I’m more like a frightened young man. I am happy sometimes, but like the weather, things have gotten pretty dreary. I jogged in the light rain for fifteen minutes around the parking lot circle. My mother used to march through the downstairs rooms to big band music playing on NPR until Dad said she was wearing a track into the carpet.
Now I’m taking my good friend for a frozen coffee at Frederick Coffee Shop–not much conversation, but I am comfortable with her in silence. It will be a quiet Christmas this year, and that’s OK with me.
Tired black men and senior citizens in wheelchairs all looking very drained. These are my Dialysis clinic buddies.
“Mr. Lebherz, I’m going to stick you today.” The technician is ready to go. She pushes two needles into my arm. They are the size of small nails with tubes attached. The cleaning process has started. I sit for the next four hours. Four hours of reading, television, and looking around the room at my buddies who look like they are ready to pass out or kick the bucket.
Santa is coming. I hope he brings me a new car for Christmas. The check engine light has been on in my car for a few years. It is German-made, too complicated to fix, or maybe I’m projecting. My dog, Louie the fourteenth, is my main passenger, which is why my swanky dash is covered with dog hair. We travel country roads every day and when he sees a cow, he barks and licks his lips. When we get to the park he jumps from back seat to front seat eager to get out and walk and have a dooky. If someone is watching I just keep pulling him forward while he is going because I’m not picking it up. What’s one dog turd going to hurt when there is duck poop everywhere? The sun is out, the sky is blue, we are on our walk, it’s a good day.