One year ago, I was in Australia, and I was sick. I had made it through Christmas without my family, been welcomed by my friends in Brisbane for a few weeks, and traveled extensively beforehand. My brain never could comprehend that it really was Christmas, because for one thing, it was HOT outside. Christmas is not supposed to take place during the summer, if you’re an American, and it never did completely click.
It started with an earache. If you read my blog post about Magnetic Island, I walked to the chemist’s (pharmacy) to get some hydrogen peroxide and ended up running back to the bus station in the noonday sun. The results of that were not only near prostration for this non-runner, but that I lost my library book, which has never ceased to irk me. The symptoms went away, and then returned with a vengeance on Christmas Eve Day. Who wants to be at the after-hours clinic on Christmas Eve? Not me. But my friend’s mom cheerfully called every doctor in town and then took me to the hospital.
At that point, I was willing to take anything to get rid of the pain, because it hurt so badly, I couldn’t move my jaw. Despite the delicious Christmas dinner my friends cooked, I wasn’t able to enjoy it properly. I slept the afternoon away and then talked to my family on Skype, during their Christmas morning.
Over the next two weeks, I regretted that medication like I’ve never regretted anything before. I wanted my earache back, because the side effects… caused everything to go through my system quickly, leaving nothing to sustain me. I had to eat and drink every few hours and I didn’t want to eat or drink. Over the next two weeks, I visited another doctor on New Year’s Eve, and he wasn’t able to help, and I ended up flying back to Emerald early, because Aussie roads don’t have regular rest stops, like in the U.S. That’s the only plane ride where I ever got motion sick, and I finally understood what my friends regularly go through.
I arrived back in Emerald and went to my local doctor, immediately. I trusted him to fix this problem, because I knew him from my last several illnesses AND since I didn’t think I could take much more. I lost ten pounds in two weeks and was starting to think that going on a drip sounded good.
When I arrived back at my Aussie family’s house, they were all delighted to see me, and there is something to be said about going on a trip, in order to make those you love excited to see you when you return. My Bub’s face, when she saw me, made it worth it to come back. The adults helped me haul my luggage upstairs, because I didn’t have the strength to do it. And once inside my room, I found two boxes from the United States waiting for me.
On Christmas morning, when I spoke to my mom, I joked with her that she should fill my stocking and hang onto it until I arrived home in May. She gave some sort of noncommittal answer, but I never really picked up on it. So, when I opened my Christmas box, I was unprepared to find my stocking in that box. There were other gifts, but for some time, I saw nothing else. That stocking had been mine since I was a baby, and while my brain could not be convinced by the calendar that it was Christmas, that stocking certainly could.
I picked that stocking up and hugged it like it was my only hope of survival, while I bawled like a baby. I had nothing left, no energy, no defenses against those tears. Being sick had taken it out of me, and if I couldn’t have my mom or my entire family, that stocking was the next best thing. Thankfully, there wasn’t anything breakable in it, because it was a while before I could let it go. But, of course, between opening all my gifts in that box, and the other box my friends had sent me, I did a lot of crying.
This story ends happily. The medicine finally kicked in, and my bosses stopped worrying that I wasn’t going to make it. My mom stopped trying to figure out whether she could get overnight plane tickets to Australia. I started to like the idea of eating and drinking again, and hope I never take it for granted again.
Maybe this seems like an odd story to share on New Year’s Eve, but I’ve been thinking about it for some time. Not only because I was too embarrassed to tell it LAST year, but because of the memories that surfaced this year, when I saw my Christmas stocking. Such a little thing to break through the walls to being homesick or being overly emotional. But then again, it’s not really a little thing. This year, my mom’s gift of two children’s books that I remember from Australia almost made me crack again, but I held it together. I hugged those two books hard, instead of crying on them.
I hope you all have memories of both recent Christmases and far distant New Years, memories that touch you to the core. Memories of family and friends, loved ones present and presently-in-heaven. And if you don’t have any of these memories that you treasure close to your heart, I hope that you’ll make some to share with those you love, in the future. Everyone should have those moments that they cherish and remember.
Now, I can see the humor in my episodes of illness. I can treasure the memory of my Aussie friends that took care of me while I was sick (and I was sick several times, while I was over there). I can even stand the inevitable teasing over getting mono, while in Australia. And I can cherish the reminder of how dear my family is to me, no matter where we are, at home or overseas.
As you celebrate this New Year, make some good new memories to share with your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, or share some happy remembrances with your friends of many years. Don’t forget to tell them all how much you love them. Be thankful for them all, and may your New Year truly be blessed.