Christmas Past: Bittersweet Christmas

I wrote this seven years ago…It was just after we discovered that Andrea was pregnant with Benjamin.

Christmas was bittersweet. I never thought it possible have joy clash with grief in the manner that it did.  We found out after Christmas Eve Mass that Andy’s grandmother had possibly suffered a stroke earlier in the day. It hit Andy like a ton of bricks. There was little that we could do that night, and with going to her parents house on Christmas day, we decided to go on with our Christmas Eve plans.

We arrived at my brother Chris’s house rather late. Andrea, already exhausted by the pregnancy and the news, had to pull together whatever energy she had left to get through the party. Somehow, we managed to enjoy ourselves. My family was in good spirits and they quickly cheered us up. We kept getting handed drinks, which we either took very tiny sips from or topped someone elses glass with (I decided out of support for Andrea, to not drink during her pregnancy). I quietly and frequently checked on the new mom-to-be.

I took a lot of pleasure in our very big secret. It’s not often that you can sit and watch people that have surrounded you your whole life and observe them through a new set of glasses that comes with such a life altering event.

As I talked with my father about his model ship, baseball and our new house, I wondered if I could be as good of a father as he is and I
wondered what I might talk about with my son or daughter in 31 years. I watched my mom sipping her drink with a twinkle of mischief in her eyes as she joked around with my sister and I knew what happiness this child would bring her. It was obvious that her children
had brought her such joy and I knew that is what she had hoped for us.

With both my mom and dad, I wondered how differently they would view me in 48 hours, after we had sprung our little surprise on them. There youngest son was going to be a daddy and I pondered what that meant to them and what it meant to me.

I watched my brothers and sister and what it meant to be a family. Andy and I were a family, but now, it was going to be different. We were going to bring this child into our tiny little family, but he or she was going to be part of two other families that were going to love him/her. And hopefully, one day they would be a brother or sister and know the love of that relationship.

On Christmas day, we headed to Andrea’s families house. With her grandmother on our minds, we knew this was going to be a very big day for us and her family. After arriving, we debated a little about when we would “present” our big secret. Andy wanted to wait until her whole family when they were together, but we were going to visit her grand mom and wanted to feel free to tell her as well.

So, as we stood around the kitchen, picking at the olives and cheese, Andrea handed her father a small wrapped gift. After some searching for glasses, he opened the gifts to reveal two small frames. Inside the frame was a piece of paper that said “Baby Keenan…Coming to a Snugglery in August.” Her father started laughing and asked us if it were for real.

He then called for Andrea’s mom and handed them to her and I think she was met with shock first…not really sure what they meant, but when it clicked, she wrapped up Andrea in a big hug. Congratulations quickly went around and all the questions began…When is it due? How long have you know? Who have you told?

We chatted with everyone for a while before heading over to see Andrea’s grand mom at the hospital. Unfortunately, her grandmother was on a lot of medication and seemed exhausted…she was barely able to acknowledge us, although she seemed to recognize Andy and Lisa. We talked to her for a little bit as she drifted in and out of sleep before Lisa suggested that we tell her the news.

Andy hesitated at first, before moving closer to to her grand mom and whispered “Grandma, I’m pregnant. I’m going to have a baby.”

Her grandmother, for a moment, snapped to a brief moment of alertness and managed to open her eyes and look and Andrea. She
practically jumped out of bed as she seemed to try to smile for a moment.

A few weeks before Christmas, Andrea’s friend Maureen had given us a daily calendar the stated what was going on with our baby each day of the pregnancy. At the start of that week, our little baby’s heart started beating for the first time.

A week later, early on the morning of December 26th, Andrea’s granmother’s heart stopped. Aside from goodbye, “Grandma, I’m pregnant. I’m going to have a baby,” was the last thing Andrea got to say to her. However painful, I truly believe that Rose’s heart will beat on in our child and that she got to be the first one to meet little Pudge (our name for the little unborn baby).

Every year, I build a gingerbread “structure”. Usually a house, but one year, I did a boat. Knowing we would be heading to my parents the day after Christmas (we didn’t find out about her grand mom until that night) and that they would expect to see another creation, I
built a very special gingerbread.

After arriving at my parents house, and making sure that as many people were around as we could round up, I unveiled my creation. I pulled the lid off the box to reveal a gingerbread cradle with a little gingerbread baby lying on a bed of marshmallows. For a brief second, no one said anything until my sister-in-law Jen yelled, “Do you have an announcement?” My mom, who seemed to be just half paying attention took a double take at the cradle before letting out a scream.

Suddenly, both Andrea and I were swamped in hugs and kisses, and even my big tough older brothers had tears in their eyes.

To this day, I still can’t help but shed a tear as I think back to those moments in my parents house…They were among the sweetest moments in my life. The love that my family has for the two of us just flooded down on us, and moved me in such a way that I will never forget.

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