Saturday, December 17, 2022

If We Make it through December


When Merle Haggard’s song “If We Make it through December” became popular, our kids were little and we were struggling financially. Jim used to sing the song, and it encompassed our worries at the time.

December has some bittersweet memories for me. Jim and I started our marriage on a warm December day in 1969. Jim had flown in from Vietnam, a hot spot in more ways than one, and I had flown in from a cold Missouri winter. After our wedding in an army chapel, we walked the warm sands of Waikiki Beach. From a taxi window, we saw a shirtless man wearing a red loincloth and a red Santa hat. It took me more than a heartbeat to realize that it was a Hawaiian version of Santa. Jim returned to Vietnam in the early Christmas morning hours and I flew to the states.

When we began our lives together, we lived in Manhattan, Kansas. We learned how to budget the small amount of money we received once a month. After the army days, we moved to Missouri.    

Instead of being a joyful time, December was a time of stress. We had to stretch our income to pay the rent and utilities, taxes, insurance, buy groceries, and cover the occasional emergency. Frozen water pipes and cars that wouldn’t start were reoccurring problems. I can remember Jim getting up at night and starting our car periodically so that it would start the next morning.

We decorated our small artificial tree, and carefully shopped to put presents under it for our kids. Life was hard, but once we made it through December, we psychologically felt like we’d made it over the wintertime hump. That’s not to say we didn’t have bone chilling weather or blizzards all the way in January, February, or even March.

It seemed that our rental houses were always cold and hard to heat. I remember a December when we lived in a two-story barn-shaped house with little to no insulation. We had filled our propane tank in anticipation of the long, cold winter ahead. We closed off our upstairs bedroom and slept on a pull-out couch in the living room. The kids’ bedroom was downstairs too. It wasn’t too bad until the time that the weather was so cold the propane wouldn’t flow through the pipes to the stove for a couple of days. We piled on the covers and used my blow dryer for extra heat.

  We weren’t alone in our dread of the bitter winds of December. I can’t even imagine how hard the winter months are for homeless families. Some of the churches provide “warming stations” for the homeless or the unfortunate folks who are without heat for some reason.

Dementia made Jim restless at night, and I worried that he would wander off in the wintertime. It was only after I installed an alarm on the front door that I was able to sleep at night.

After Jim lived in the nursing home, I always spent Christmas with him. I would take him some of the special dishes that Virginia had cooked and ate dinner with him. He had a little tree in his room and the halls were decorated for the holidays. It was the changing face of holiday traditions.

Jim has been gone since April of 2005, but sometimes he seems just a breath away. Other times it seems like a final chapter in my life’s story that ended like a Nicolas Sparks’ book.

When a loved one dies, life goes on, but it will never, ever be the same. After Jim’s death, I had to rebirth my life and focus on what remained rather than what was gone. Now, I just need to make it through December.


Donations to the 2022 Sedalia Walk accepted through December

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Copyright © December 2022 by L.S. Fisher


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