On Christmas day, 2005, Mom said the only thing she'd tasted in months that tasted good was the roasted pearl onions in sherry and cream I made to go with Christmas dinner. We ate, we talked, and one by one the others left.
I was the last to leave. I hugged her and said, "I love you."
The next morning Dad called to say she screamed and had terrible seizures and he had to call an ambulance and they cut her new Christmas robe and pajamas off her to tend to her and she was in a coma in the hospital at which she'd worked for the last 30 years.
We spent four days constantly rotating through, telling stories, reading the newspaper, chattering at her under the idea that coma patients can hear and understand and might be inspired to return to consciousness.
The joke was on us. The strokes that had put her out of reach had rendered her deaf.
She did come back, but only long enough to give us hope before she lost her mind and her body and everything that made her my mother.
A week in the hospital, a week in a nursing home, some time in a hospital bed at home, an endless fog of time that ended on February 22 when she died, very early in the morning, having regained consciousness for the first time in a month - just for a second, just long enough to shed a tear.
So now every Christmas evening, freed from the tyranny of forced cheer and truly saintly tolerance for the woman who thinks she's an Untiedt, who thinks she can announce Christmas traditions and make them happen, I cry like a child and long for the days when Christmas meant sharing my best friend's favourite day with her, giggling like loons, eating well, loving well and making memories.
I don't feel any new memories being made. Only this endless parade of keeping up appearances.
I speak this in the hushed tones of white on white, of snow falling on snowy ground. Keeping up appearances is very important, and so is a white Christmas.