Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What a Difference a Year Makes

By Kay Kendall

Last December my husband and I were running an endurance test. He underwent three months of daily radiation treatment plus chemo for his neck cancer. This understandably obliterated the entire holiday season. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s. Everything. By my birthday around Valentine’s Day, he was beginning to feel a tiny bit better.

During his treatments, every day I drove him to world-famous, justly revered MD Anderson Cancer Center, and every day we passed by the same Christmas decorations. Our favorites were the most lifelike eight reindeer of Santa’s that you would ever hope to see—short of the real animals. They were so splendid that they cheered us up as we passed them each day. 

Well, Santa's reinder are back again now. And as much as I’d like to wipe out that awful time last year, this holiday season is bringing it back to me in full, pulsating detail. Instead of being depressed by the memories, however, I am determined to wallow—yes, wallow!—in thankfulness.

I am thankful that the specialty hospital is only eight miles from our home. For family and friends
New Orleans French Quarter at Christmas**
who stood by Bruce and me as we crawled through the long tunnel of those months and out into the light. For being able to participate this year in the travel plans we had made for last year’s Christmas in New Orleans. 

Still, this season is bittersweet. The good friend who took us into her family last year at Thanksgiving and Christmas has lost her own battle with cancer. Another friend was in a dreadful wreck on an interstate in New Mexico and will suffer the consequences of his many cracked bones and torn aorta for the rest of his life, even though he was quote-unquote lucky to survive. 
Lots of old sayings rush back into my head now. Like—you have to take the good with the bad. Life has its ups and downs. And so forth.
Truth to tell, I get a bit scared when I contemplate the coming year, 2016. What will it bring? Will I be ready for whatever comes my way? That’s when I just have to shut down the Nervous Nellie part of my brain—and it is a pretty huge part, I admit—and adhere firmly to the view that my cup is going to be half-full, not half-empty, come what may. Even if I cannot convince myself that “my cup runneth over.”
Excuse me if I am dwelling too much in platitudes. But I am telling you what is in my heart and in my mind these days. I also must add the joy I felt at the grocery store two hours ago when the customers smiled kindly at each other, the holiday music played, and a toddler kept bringing me items from her mom’s shopping cart. She was so sweet and charming. And best of all,
**our weeklong visit to wonderful New Orleans with family—including our two delightful grandchildren. Kids at Christmas are delightful. Their joy is contagious. 
As the tee shirts say—Life is good. It has to be. The only other alternative is unacceptable, and will come all too soon to each of us anyway. 
So, however and whatever you celebrate this season, I hope you enjoy yourself and have family and friends to do it with. I look forward to chatting with you again in 2016—which I hope will be bright and healthy for us all. Rock on!
Kay Kendall’s historical mysteries capture the spirit and turbulence of the 1960s. DESOLATION ROW (2013) and RAINY DAY WOMEN (2015) are in her Austin Starr Mystery series. Austin is a 22-year-old Texas bride who ends up on the frontlines of societal change, learns to cope, and turns amateur sleuth. Kay’s degrees in Russian history and language help ground her tales in the Cold War, and her titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff too. Kay lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. In her former life as a PR executive, Kay’s projects won international awards.

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