A guest story by Brenda Beaton Smid*
Oh Joy! The stores had just put out the Christmas decorations, gift ideas, everything and anything that was even remotely associated with the season. That meant one thing for my husband and me.
The few few hours of sleep we craved each night, would now be cut in half.
Our two sons, born with severe disabilities are living testaments that a couple of hours of sleep is plenty enough for anyone, day after day, year after year. Their excitement for Christmas and life in general has never changed, thank goodness. Though we thought our boys the true meaning of Christmas, they still regarded the gifts and decorations the tangible evidence of the event.
I remember the first time Al and I told them Santa was coming that night. Wrong thing to say.
We all did a graveyard shift that night and finally, with four pairs of bloodshot eyes, two drooping heads, ours not theirs, (and a partridge in a pear tree), we let them open their presents at 4:00 am. It took another six or seven hours to calm them down enough to have a cat nap. We took what we could get.
For the first few years we'd put up a tree and decorations about two weeks before Christmas.
My husband and I were gluttons for punishment, we loved seeing their excitement.
We finally clued in that the day we decorated, was the start of even less sleep for all of us. Each year a day or two we would shave off, so it would be only a few days before Christmas when the tree went up.
Who were we kidding? Chris and Kevin had our number. They knew it was coming and didn't want to miss a minute of it.
An artificial tree took the place of the real one, less mess for me to clean up.
I was never gifted in the crafty, cutesy, perfect decorating methods.
That was just as well. Kevin had a habit of sitting close to the tree and he couldn't help himself from grabbing one of the mini- lights trying to pull it out. Many a time I would come into the living room and see one section or another of the tree spinning around like a top, with Kevin yanking on a string of lights.
As our sons grew taller and older, our Christmas tree got shorter and shorter. I figured it was less to decorate so the bottom section was left in the box.
Eventually, we ended up with with only the top section of the trees sitting on the coffee table.
In my defense, it was nicely decorated, albeit it little top heavy with the star being half the size of the tree, and it took only minutes to decorate or re-decorate when it was spinning.
Yahoo!, and it only took me twenty years to figure that out.
The presence of presents out in the open was cause for disaster. We learned very early on not to put the gifts under the tree until the boys grudgingly fell asleep on Christmas Eve.
They are both non-verbal but have hearing that is so tuned in, they could hear a gum wrapper rattling from another room.
We tried for years to sneak downstairs covertly and deposit the gifts, but Chris had a built-in alarm clock that would rouse him out of bed anytime after 1:am.
Needless to say, we had to change our tactics after he proceeded to open every gift once we had finally into a sleep-deprived stupor.
Eventually, because both boys developed epilepsy and pill taking in the morning was important,we adjusted by not telling them it was Christmas morning until they had their breakfast and pills in them, and their stomachs settled.
A couple of hours later, either Al or I would say “It's Christmas today!” We'd bring down the bags full of gifts and start the fun once again.
Both boys were grinning and gagging with over excitement, but it was totally worth it all.
I put as little tape on the gifts as was needed.
Their lack of fine-motor skills made it difficult opening things.
It took them no time at all to realize anything soft was probably clothing, so they were shoved aside. Oh, what excitement!
My sons are thirty-three and twenty-eight years old now.*
They live in group homes, happy, healthy, and enjoying life in every way. I see them two or three times a week. We lost their dad four years ago, and we have come through that time with a a peace and strength that comes only from God. I still celebrate Christmas day with my boys, not the same as it used to be, but with the same excitement that we always had.
I can still buy them noisy toys, and I don't have to use earplugs anymore.
Now it's the workers at their houses that have to put up with the noise.
Sorry about that. There is always a grave-yard shift worker on duty, and more than once my sons have kept them company, especially during the holiday season.
Christmas has been a very important and exciting event for us as a family, not because the gifts under the tree, but the greatest gift of all – God's love for us through Jesus Christ, and the love He has given us, for each other.
That's the gift I'll seek forever.
O, and maybe a little bit more sleep, please? Old habits die hard.
*Brenda's story was written in 2008, the same year my Anne passed away. Her boys are now 42 and 37.
Brenda is married to my brother Durk, they are living in Williams Lake, BC.
This beautiful and intelligent woman who won the 1st price with this story, which was published in the Tribune, is unable to talk and hear anymore.
Durk has communicated with Brenda in a variety of ways and now mostly by showing and gestures, as Brenda does not connect written words with the meanings of these words any longer.
Brenda is not demented which makes their suffering more severe, but they are still dancing together, often in the new work shop where Durk makes his chairs and other wood articles out of trees which he and Brenda pick up from the local first Nation band.
They are so very much in love with each other and with life, and often dance in the work shop where Durk produces his wonderful wood crafts. I urge every one reading her wonderful story in which she shows not any self pity but certainly a trust in God and a love for her sons, to support Durk and Brenda and to remember both in your prayers.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New-year
lex (leffert) smid