Two days before Christmas both my father and my brother were in the hospital, I was left at home with a neighbor.
I spent most of that day at Rosa Lee’s house. I’m sure I was a lot to handle, not that I was such a bad kid, but because I would constantly ask when my mother was coming home.
It would be after dark when my mother would finally come home. I know it sounds selfish now, however back then, at 7 years old, I thought she should be with me.
My mother was a strong person emotionally. I’m sure it had a lot to do with growing up during the Depression, when things were hard on most folks. Somehow, she managed to keep check on me as well as be at the hospital with Eddie and our dad at the same time.
I would again find myself on Christmas Eve Day waking up to an empty house and Rosa Lee sitting at the dinning room table drinking a cup of coffee. I remember quizzing her about where my mother was and her response.
She explained that something had happened at the hospital and my mother had called her well before daylight to come and sit with me.
At the time, I didn’t understand what was happening. In later years, I would learn that my father had another heart attack, this one worse than the first one.
In 1958, doctors did not have the technology that they do today, but our family doctor, Dr. Hillard Reddick, actually saved my father’s life by doing CPR on him and getting his heart to start back.
Eddie was not doing so well either. He had been on oxygen for two days as they worked trying to get all of the fluid off of his lungs.
It sounds a little selfish now, but children can be that way, especially at Christmas and birthdays.
I really had serious concerns about whether Santa Claus would come to our house. I was a little concerned about Eddie getting any presents since he was in the hospital, however I was mostly concerned about me.
On the few Christmas Eves I remembered to that point in my life, we had a tradition: Eddie and I were allowed to open one present from under the tree after supper.
That Christmas Eve, my mother came home from the hospital long enough for me to open my one present and take one back for Eddie.
I have no idea what the present was, but I do remember opening it up as my mother and her sister, my Aunt Bonnie, who was there to take care of me, watched.
I hugged my mother so hard and did not want to let her go. Eventually, however, I had to let her go so that she could go back to the hospital to be with Eddie and my Dad.
That night I went to bed crying because I thought since Santa Claus had not come that Christmas Eve like he had done the year before he was not coming to our house.
I decided that it was over for me and Santa. He wasn’t going to come to our house ever again and except for the couple of presents under the Christmas tree, the next morning would be bust. Aunt Bonnie tried to console me as best she could.
The next morning when I woke up I could her my mother's voice. I ran to her as she and Aunt Bonnie sat at the dining room table talking.
I had been so interested in seeing her and disappointed that Santa Claus did not come like he did the year before, that I never looked at the Christmas tree.
“I believe Santa came last night while you were asleep,” I remember my mother saying.
Turning to see the tree, I realized that Santa had after all been to our house. He had not forgotten us after all.
Eddie and I both had toys under the tree, along with the usual underwear and socks.
Somehow, through all of the tragedy with my Dad and brother, our Christmas had been saved.
It would be one of my best Christmases ever, not so much for the toys I received, but because Santa did not forget me.
It would be a week before my brother would come home and my Dad would be in the hospital for two more weeks.
Over the next months, God took care of us. My Dad lost his job, because he could not go back to work for those several months. I know now that family and friends chipped in to help.
My Dad would eventually have several more heart attacks and Eddie would be in the hospital two more times.
I learned early on that Christmas isn’t just about presents. It is about family and being together.
So, when I read the Christmas story of Joseph and Mary and the Christ child I think back to that Christmas of 1958 and am thankful for my family and especially thankful for Jesus – the reason for the season.
Byron Spires is a retired newspaper editor. He has written dozens of short stories and serials in the Havana Herald. He recently published “The Curious Life of Marci Bell: Part I,” in a series of three books. You can contact him at email@example.com.