Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Morning

The Sligh mahogany mantle clock in my study has just struck the quarter hour after noon, so we're but minutes beyond the morning of Christmas Day, and an eventful morning it has been.

For most people, an exciting Christmas morning would likely have included something to do with a Christmas tree (which we don't have), or children (none of them either), or gifts (we never exchange gifts), or maybe just a really nice breakfast (ours wasn't bad, but not exactly traditional, having been left-over tourtière meat pie from last night and two fried eggs, all of which we didn't consume until we got home after nine o'clock this morning).

The reason we didn't get home until after nine o'clock this morning is that we had left the house rather abruptly shortly after 6:00 a.m. this morning to go to the Emergency Ward of the hospital.

By all accounts both of us had had a fairly sleepless night last night. At something after 3:00 a.m. this morning, I was literally tossing and turning in bed, flopping about like a fish on a wharf from one side of the bed to the other, punching the pillows in an attempt to reinvigorate the goose down, succeeding in the process in twisting the bed clothes into knots, or at the very least managing to turn the duvet on its axis. Once or twice I got out of bed to change my night shirt, drenched at the neck by the sweat of my anxiety, and to void my bladder, and to restore my dehydrated mouth with glasses of cold winter water. But then it was back to bed for more punishment, reliving last evening's indulgence in vodka martinis before a blazing fire (it was after all Christmas Eve), and the last act of self-inflicted harm when the two of us polished off an entire box of chocolates which a well-meaning Client had thought to bring me at the office on Christmas Eve only seconds before I escaped at noon.

In the other bedroom, the patient reported to have been awakened by a painful throat at 11:30 p.m., 1:30 a.m. and again at 4:00 a.m., at which time he gave up trying to sleep peacefully (or at all) and reluctantly descended to the main floor to brew some coffee, not exactly a happy way to begin one's Christmas morning. When I succumbed to the defeat of a restless night, I learned that the patient intended to go to the Emergency Ward of the hospital to have his throat looked at. Being more familiar than he with the hospital and its staff, I offered to call the hospital to confirm what would be a good time to go to the Emergency Ward. Once connected with the hospital, the main telephonist (whom I wished a courteous Merry Christmas) transferred me "down" as she put it, though I believe they're all on the first floor, to the Emergency Ward, where the equally buoyant nurse said we could come ahead anytime. I suggested we'd be there within the half-hour, and she agreed that would be fine.

While I wouldn't have said of myself that I am any bit at all like Florence Nightingale, I was nonetheless prompted to slip into the role of caregiver for the ailing patient, who had been complaining in muted tones about the affliction for the past several days. Of course I couldn't have imagined him bundling himself up and walking through the snow to the hospital (which is only about a ten minute walk away) like a wounded Winceslas, so I announced that I would drive him to the front door then await his delivery. It is clearly one of the advantages of living in a small town that emergency medical care is so readily accessible, the more so at 6:15 a.m. on Christmas Morning. Often it has been recounted to me by local physicians that most people in distress prefer to endure the pain and suffering throughout the day, then come limping into the Emergency Ward in the latter part of the evening, most commonly after they have done themselves the favour of having had dinner and usually more than enough to drink. Perhaps it is the Dutch courage which eventually prompts them to do something about their condition. All this is to say that it didn't surprise me to find the hospital quite peaceful at six o'clock on Christmas morning, nor to find the patient, once delivered into the care of the practitioners, had been administered to within a matter of minutes, as he emerged looking much relieved, prescription in hand. He told me his information was that the closest pharmacy that was open on Christmas morning was the new one in the next town, so there we headed without a second thought.

I should have known things had been going too smoothly to be sustained. Upon arriving in front of the bright new building, the parking lot was empty and there were no lights on inside. An examination of the "Hours of Business" notice posted on the front door revealed that they weren't open until 10:00 a.m., and the only other place to get a prescription filled was at a place in the City. After a brief consideration of the matter, we motored down the highway towards our alternate destination.

The highway from the country to the City is undergoing significant upgrades and changes. Though the car was dirty from the salt and snow of the past several days of inclement weather, the machine nonetheless handled beautifully on the resurfaced roads, and we flew in silence and virtual solitude along the ribbon of highway through the countryside of barren white snow and contrasting fields of unmown yellow crops, listening to the ubiquitous Messiah on the satellite radio. I asked aloud whether we should call OnStar and have them give us the telephone number for the pharmacy to ensure they were indeed open, but we reasoned that the other place wouldn't have advertised it unless it were so. We sped along in silence once again, arriving at the store shortly.

I awaited in the parking lot, while the patient trudged into the well-lit store, emerging moments later, informing me that the pharmacist (who had trouble verifying the existence of the young doctor's name who had written the 'script) said to come back in ten minutes. There was apparently no one else at the counter.

Our drive home was interrupted only by the necessary attendance at the usual gas station, where I naturally put the car through a wash, the utility of which was of course short-lived but it heightened my spirits ever so ephemerally on Christmas Morning.

After our breakfast (which, due to the protraction of its normal preparation, was hastily devoured), we treated ourselves in our subsequent lethargy to a re-run of the film "American Beauty", which nicely rounded last afternoon's cinematic revisitation of "A Christmas Carol" (the classic version with Alastair Sim in the lead).

Now that Christmas Morning has passed, we must both prepare ourselves for the more traditional family gathering and turkey dinner chez mes parents, en famille. In token acknowledgement of the upcoming festivities, I plan to sport on my lapel a sparkling brooch with simulated diamonds of a small Scottish terrier. Stylish without being over-powering. It is, after all, Christmas!

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