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26 December, 2012


The question had been hanging over us for weeks.  "Would my wife Rosanne be well enough to travel to daughter Cindy's home in Caledon East on Christmas day?

Finally at 10:45 a.m. on Monday (Dec. 24) it was mutually conceded that "no", we would be unable to make the two-hour drive on Tuesday.  Rosanne's delicate and weakened condition had not shown sufficient improvement, in fact if anything it had worsened.  It was a painful and inevitable concession for both of us.  Rosanne comes from a traditional Ukrainian background where Christmas was not only celebrated by her family on the 25th of December but on the 7th of January as well. Ever since we were married 10 years ago, her Christmases have been spent with my two daughters and their families.  This would be the first time in 50 years that I would not spend Christmas with my girls.

After breaking the news to Cindy in a hasty and difficult telephone call, I realized I had to get my butt in gear if we were to have anything resembling a Christmas dinner the next day. I had no choice but to join hundreds of other frenzied grocery shoppers scrambling to beat the early Dec. 24 closing deadline.  My priority purchase, of course, was a turkey but a frozen bird was out of the question at that late date.  The store had sold out of the already cooked and stuffed variety, so I opted for a fresh young turkey breast that would do Rosanne and I quite nicely.  Stove top turkey dinner dressing was the next item on my list and thankfully the store was still well stocked.  After a quick stop in the frozen foods section, I headed to bakery goods for some minced fruit tarts -- a poor substitute for my all-time favorite minced meat pie.  Since Rosanne does not like anything minced, I picked up a mini cherry pie for her.  Next was a visit to the meat department for a cottage roll of ham, an essential for Boxing Day dinner, along with leftover turkey.

I must have picked up a few other incidental items as well, because my bill came to $101.86.

Upon unpacking the groceries at home I realized that I had typically forgotten some items.  So back I went for poultry seasoning, a can of gravy (I always like to top up my turkey drippings with either canned gravy or cream of chicken soup) and some spaghetti for that evening's supper.  I made it just by the skin of my teeth (an old family expression) as the store was about to close.

The impulse was to sleep in a bit the next morning but after all, it was Christmas and I had a lot of things to do.  As I prepared Rosanne's toasted bagel and cheese, I had a strange craving for a bowl of porridge.  "Good idea for Christmas morning breakfast," I thought.  "We always have Quaker Oats on hand" -- wrong!  Well, we had a bag alright, but with no more than a table spoon of oats rattling around on the bottom.  Come to think of it, the last time I had oatmeal for breakfast was about a year ago.  Disappointed, I settled for my usual raisin bran muffin with coffee.

Still not over the oatmeal let-down, I had another craving, this time it was for my mother's tomato aspic, another Christmas dinner tradition in our family.  Again, "no problem", I thought confidently, remembering a packet of lemon jello mix I had purchased several months before (lemon jello and tomato juice are the two main ingredients in my favorite recipe).  As I was about to rip open the small jello box, the word "pudding" bounced out at me.  God help me, it was pudding mix that I was about to dump into the already steaming pot of tomato juice on the stove, not the required jello powder.

"Don't tell me that this is the way my day is headed!" I grumbled aloud.  I needed a break and thought that I would make another coffee and join Rosanne in the living room for a while.  While I was at it, I inserted a Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers Christmas tape into our 1980s portable radio, just to add a little seasonal atmosphere to our morning.  The first song, believe it or not, was "I'll Be Home for Christmas".  Rosanne and I looked at each other, both thinking the obvious: "Oh ya, tell us about it!"  Rosanne asked me to turn off the tape several songs later.  It was obviously bothering her -- and keeping her from her customary extended morning nap.

"I think that I might die before the day is over," she said with a weak voice.  "I don't want to, but..."
"Is that right," I interjected off-handedly, thinking to myself  "Thanks for the warning Rosanne -- no pressure there!"

I made some broccoli soup for lunch and let Rosanne sleep (in between several telephone calls from family) for most of the afternoon.  Thankfully, preparation for our turkey dinner later that evening went relatively smoothly and it turned out extremely well too, if I do say so myself.  Rosanne has not been able to make it to the dinner table for the past few months and I served her on a TV table in the living room. I too, collapsed into an easy chair with my dinner on a TV tray and subsequently fell asleep between courses (I think we both did) and woke up about an hour and a half later, but never too late for dessert, even if it was 10 o'clock at night.

Rosanne had her cherry pie and I had my minced tart and a glass of egg nog while begrudgingly cleaning up the kitchen.  Somebody had to do it, right?

I started writing this post just before midnight and we went to bed around 2:15 a.m.  We fell asleep counting our blessings -- we made it through the day and we were both still alive.

First thing on my to-do-list for morning was to go out and buy a package of lemon jello mix, this time being very careful to read the labelling...I am determined to have my tomato aspic on Boxing Day.  Better a day late than never!

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