A few weeks ago, I asked Vernon what he missed most about England. He answered without a beat: “The bad weather.”
I laughed as I recanted this to Maki, but he said: “I know what he means.”
Actually I do too. Maybe not as deep in the core as they do, living most of their lives in cold climates, but I too long for cold and rain this time of year. It hasn’t been cold around Christmas here since we moved here in 2012. I have a spotty memory of the winter weather growing up. But this month has actually brought sweater weather for the holidays, which makes me very happy indeed. It’s one step closer to matching the holiday songs we hear all day long.
Last night, it rained. All night. And it hasn’t stopped, 24 hours later. It actually rained all day too, I couldn’t believe it. Even the weather app on my phone didn’t register the precipitation. Bad Weather—at long last! And it couldn’t have been more on schedule. Even the horrible rain/holiday/SoCal traffic didn’t dampen my spirits on the way to dialysis this morning. I wanted to tell Vernon all about it. We could talk about Christmas in England and memories of grey skies.
But he was in a bad way, alert but angry and dark, inconsolable. Again, I tell myself this is par for the course, that this is just another day in the relatively good period he’s been in. But I couldn’t calm him down the whole session. He wasn’t jumpy-agitated, like he might fall from his chair, but he seemed frustrated with me for not taking him away from there. He spoke a lot but he sounded confused and hyper-alert…always looking for a way out, not recognizing people, or rather, over-recognizing strangers and making up stories about his connection to him and how they had either worked with him or were his ride out of there. He kept trying to get their attention, annoyed with me for trying to distract him.
This is when it is good to have two lives. These are the days I am happy to have my leave of him. I called the ambulance and told them to come a little early, rewarded by the grateful gazes of the technical staff. I was happy to get on the rain-sprayed freeway and back to the busy-ness of Christmas preparations and the general turning-in of society.
But yet these are the days I miss him the most. This fantastic weather and holiday nostalgia brings me back to the years we lived in England together. Decorating our little home year after year, mince pies, mulled wine at the outdoor Christmas market by Winchester Cathedral, Vernon’s family in Bournemouth, the Christmas lunch, the fire, cards strung across the sitting room, each with a story of an old friend, cups of tea made especially by Vernon’s dad, who took his tea-making seriously (and it’s true: they were the best in town), Christmas crackers and the big TV show that the rest of the country was also watching, tucked away in the warmth of home from the dark outdoors, which we might take an evening walk in. I’ve been thinking about those Christmas memories because they are mostly the ones I have of us together.
Here is Vernon’s longtime favorite Christmas song. I remember it would come up on his playlist turn as we drove through Hampshire on the way to his parent’s house in Bournemouth. We always agreed that the tree lined roads reminded us both of the ’70s, when we were free to look up at the sky and passing canopies, seatbelt-free, in the back of his parent’s estate and my parents’ station wagon. Even as a child, he chose to love this song with his anti-commercialism message. It helps me imagine what he was like when he was young: ever thoughtful, not unlike he was as an adult.
If you are interested in a bit more UK Christmas nostalgia, here is my top pick each year. I never hear these playing here in the States, so it has been fun YouTubing down memory lane.
Regardless of how things have changed, who we’ve lost and what we’ve gained, at the heart of all this, its a special time of year. The memories are a warm pleasure on a cold night. It feels good to find them in the middle of it all.
I wish each of YOU a Merry Christmas—Past, Present, and Future. Stay warm!