Holiday memory: A Different Celebration
Sweat dripped down my face as the summer heat eddied around us that afternoon. Sure that Billy would fall asleep in his usual nap pattern, I had put a random selection of his records on the player.
“No, no, no,” insisted Billy, my 4-year-old. He crawled out of bed and started rummaging through the box himself until he found three or four favorites.
I had settled myself in a little cushioned rocker by the window in his room in a thwarted attempt to catch some breezes and to monitor the record player which stood at the end of Billy’s bed.
“No nap for me today,” I crossly thought.
Night time was hard for both of us, as Billy frequently went into heart-failure and awoke crying with the pain and fear. I would race into his room to comfort and reassure him, while I popped more pillows under his head to ease his breathing. Blessedly, sometimes he’d suffer only one or two attacks a night, but other times, there would be more. Next day, we’d both function under a cloud of numbing fatigue.
Billy was such a soldier. I’d bet there would be few grown people who could handle his physical problems with more grace than he did. Billy had been born with a congenital heart defect, a big hole in the wall between the ventricles. Trying to live with inadequate oxygen in his blood had left him handicapped, locked in a small body, unable to grow, as well as unable to walk, run or tumble like other boys his age.
He plopped a record on the battered machine and out into the heat of the day came a glorious Christmas carol, here in August.
Billy curled up in my lap as he often did, and out of his mouth the words came softly. Words of hope, joy, and inspiration for centuries of aching hearts of all kinds, even defective ones. We sat there for over an hour, singing and celebrating Christ’s birth.
Who would know that in a short six weeks, Billy would die. I bless that time because I know surely whose arms hold Billy now.
Ann Clancy has lived in Nevada since January 1971. She is retired and a writer. She has a book being published next summer, “A Yankee in a Confederate Town,” her great-grandfather’s memoirs.