Sunday, December 23, 2007

Times That Make a Family Strong

Most Sunday mornings you hear from me, what music I'm listening to, the weather, my latest obsession or bright idea. This morning I couldn't blog, I was too busy; it's afternoon now and I have a few minutes but this will be brief. Let me tell you what's up.

You remember when our house flooded back in October. One thing that happened was that the wood floors were ruined. The wood got warped and stained, it was uncomfortable to walk on and it didn't look very nice. It was mostly in the hallway outside the bathroom where the pipe broke, but the water ran into two bedrooms, too, a little bit. The thing is, they can't fix part of the floor or it will look different from the rest, so they have to do all or none. They figured they could sand and varnish, and didn't have to replace the wood, which is good, but it still meant they had to do the whole top level of our house, and the stairs and the living room, which is the level below (I don't really know the terminology for a split-level house, they aren't quite "stories" or "floors").

That meant taking everything -- everything -- out of four bedrooms and the living room, and moving it downstairs to the family room, my office, the dining room and kitchen. Last week we did that. There are mattresses leaning against the stove, stools on top of bedtables on top of bookshelves in the dining room. A big stuffed chair in the middle of the kitchen. Boxes everywhere. There are narrow paths through the lower level of the house so you can get from one room to another.

And we have been living in a hotel for the whole week. It turned out to be a hotel located right in a Verizon dead spot, so none of our cell phones worked. I won't complain about the hotel, since the insurance company paid for it, but it wasn't home, let's say. We moved back today.

Also, my wife's father is in the last stages of lung cancer. We were planning to visit grandparents the week after Christmas, but she got a call this morning saying this might be it, and so she figured out how to get a ticket to Iowa and right now, as I type this, our son is driving her to Dulles. They are a very close family, all calling each other every day, not like my family, who I probably wouldn't recognize if I ran into them unexpectedly (just kidding, I'm pretty sure I would). She is really broken up about this, and I know this will be the worst week in her life because they love and respect their father so much. He was an old-time hard-working man who raised up a good family through good times and hard times, and it's hard for them to see him weak like this now. We were going to go out on the twenty-eighth, but if he passes we will have to figure out how to change the tickets for the rest of us and everything else, boarding the dog, stopping the paper, all of it.

Christmas has always been an important holiday for us. As you can imagine, we aren't the most religious family in the world, but we always got out the advent calendar and went through it with the kids, opening up a new picture every day, and we have a hilarious series of Polaroid pictures of them screaming and twisting around on Santa's lap year after year, that poor old guy at White Flint. They're seventeen and nineteen now, so ... actually I don't think Santa would mind if the nineteen-year-old sat on his lap, but I am not going to encourage her to do that. I remember, it used to amaze me that every present cost twenty dollars, little or big, it was always the same price. Thomas the Tank Engine or something for a bike, it was always twenty dollars. Those days are gone. No, they're not getting the Apple notebook. But there are some really pretty nice things stashed in a secret place that I am not going to mention on the Internet.

I don't know what to do about Christmas. I'd like to wait and celebrate with the whole family, but I also want Christmas day to be special. The kids are upset in a deep way, knowing that their grandfather is leaving us. And of course the house is a disaster, there's no Christmas tree or anything, and I don't think it would be very good to set one up on the new wood floor. At this moment there is absolutely nothing in the living room, not even curtains.

I just thought of something. There's a little Christmas tree about two feet high on a counter in the kitchen, I think I'll put that on a coffee table, that'd be neat, wouldn't it? [Update: see picture at the end of this post. See how nice our floor looks!]

I just read what I've written so far, and it sounds pretty depressing. Sorry about that, we're fine. In a strange way these are the best times, there are lots of hugs and tears and people doing things that are hard, but need to be done. It can only work if we love one another. This blog is usually a place for discussion of sex-ed and things about the culture wars, but occasionally, especially on Sundays, I write something personal. It's just me and the kids here for a few days, it looks like, and I know they'll rise to the occasion. We've got a lot of work to do here, and we will end up having the best Christmas, you just watch.


Anonymous Robert said...

My thoughts will be with your wife and her father, and your whole family. I think you're right, when there's love we can go through times like this and have good memories of our loved ones. My mother and sister and I will share memories of my father on Christmas, as we do every year (then go eat Chinese food!).


December 23, 2007 5:51 PM  
Blogger David S. Fishback said...


Our family's thoughts are with yours. Our loved ones do live on in us.

Your new floor and Christmas tree look great.


December 23, 2007 6:38 PM  

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