The good news came early yesterday. Dad does not have cancer. You never know what good news is until you hear the words: he does not have cancer. What he did have was a serious liver infection that required minor, yet still painful, surgery. And further tests on his gall bladder. And weeks of antibiotic treatments that will leave him much weakened. I sat with him for 16 hours in the hospital as he drifted in and out of consciousness, holding his hand, the one that held the wedding band of white gold. The wedding band that he had never removed for over forty years. The one the doctor made him remove while he had the surgery. I was surprised to learn that it could come off. I had always thought it looked rather painful, appearing ingrown onto his finger.
When I was five, I had my first real Christmas. It was Dec. 24. My brother and I were allowed to stay up until midnight. That's when Santa would appear and bring us our presents. But we didn't have a chimney so I wondered where he was going to come from. We soon had our answer: he was coming up the stairs from the basement. The sound of those heavy footsteps coming up the stairs was making my heart burst with anticipation and excitement. And there he was. Santa. When you're five, and going through Christmas for the first time, I guess it's easy to forget that Dad isn't anywhere in the room. And you believe the story your Mom makes up that he's working late.
My brother and I sat on Santa's lap for all the obligatory pictures. Years and years later, my Mom would tell me that I kept feeling Santa's hand. The one with the white gold wedding band. That I kept looking at that damn ring that was going to blow Santa's cover. She couldn't help feeling nervous and upset at the same time. How could Dad have forgotten to take off that wedding band? Was I going to suddenly burst out, "You're not Santa! You're Dad!" Well, not that Christmas. And not the next one either. And then of course, my brother and I grew up and there was no fooling us anymore.
Last night in the hospital, as I held Dad's hand again after 33 years, feeling his wedding band, I no longer wondered who he was. I only wondered how 33 years had gone by so terrifyingly quickly. And how another 33 years would go by equally quickly. If I was lucky enough to be around for another 33 years.
Merry Christmas and great thanks to all who have been readers of this blog. Be happy, be well. Live in the present. My wish this season is that everyone will have a ring to hold on to in 33 years.