Thirteen years: Going Home For Christmas

AIDS was… an illness in stages, a very long flight of steps that led assuredly to death, but whose every step represented a unique apprenticeship. It was a disease that gave death time to live and its victims time to die, time to discover time, and in the end to discover life

~ Hervé Guibert

Going Home For Christmas

Continued from… Good News, Finally!

“Do you have everything, Isaac?” Annie asked as she looked around Isaac’s hospital room.

It was three days since he had the last CT scan, and Isaac was being discharged from the hospital. Even though his temperature was still somewhat higher than normal, all blood values were okay. However, Isaac wasn’t allowed to travel yet. The doctors wanted him to rest for at least two weeks before he made the trip back to South Africa. If he didn’t get ill again in those two weeks, the doctors trusted Isaac would be strong enough to travel.

“Yes, mommy,” Isaac said in a childlike voice, teasing Annie, “I have everything.”
“Watch out you!” Annie scolded playfully as the two of them walked out of the room.

At the nurses’ station, they stopped to say their goodbyes to the nurses. Isaac was sorry this was the day off of his favorite nurse. He would have loved to hug the beautiful man, but he now hugged each of the nurses who had cared for him in the past month.

Isaac heaved a sigh of relief when Annie started the car.
“I am so glad to go home. Sometimes I thought I would never get out there again,” he said quietly.
“Of course you were going to get out of the hospital, my friend, you’re strong. You’re a fighter!” Annie said, patting his knee, but she was glad she had to concentrate on the traffic, so Isaac couldn’t see the tears in her eyes. She too had feared the same as Isaac had.

“Did you get your medicine back, Isaac?” she suddenly asked.
“No, I am not allowed to take the medicine anymore. When I’m back in South Africa, the doctors must give me other medicine — something with no alcohol, as my pancreas can never tolerate alcohol again,” Isaac explained.

Annie fell silent for a while.
“What about food? Are you on a special diet now?”
“All they said is I shouldn’t take any alcohol and not eat too much meat or fatty stuff,” Isaac answered.
“Then we have to watch out what meat we cook. Maybe it’s better to eat mostly chicken and fish. That’s not as fat…” Annie said, but Isaac interrupted her.
“Please Annie; I don’t want you to go out of your way just to cater for me. Just cook as you always would have done. You and your family have been so kind to me. I don’t want to be a burden to you.”
“You’re not a burden my friend,” she assured Isaac. “We love having you around and we will always support you.”

The rest of the trip home, they were silent, lost in thought. No one was home when Annie and Isaac arrived. Jacques had to work, and the children were at school. The Christmas school holidays would only start the next day. Annie had already invited her mom to join them for dinner that evening.

It turned into a wonderful evening.

Everyone was in good spirits and happy to have Isaac back in their midst. About three hours after dinner, Grace noticed the tired faces of Annie and Isaac. She decided to go home, and she advised them all to retire to bed too. It had been a tempestuous couple of weeks for all of them, in which Annie and Isaac grew even closer together than they were before Isaac’s hospitalization.

Everyone followed Grace’s advice and went to bed after she had left.

The next morning, the kids were off to school and Jacques and Annie both had to work. Annie was home by lunchtime and by then, both kids had returned from school too. Halfway through the afternoon, Jacques returned from his work.

Since the shops would be open until nine o’clock that evening, as they are every Friday evening, they all left late in the afternoon to do Christmas shopping. Darkness was starting to fall in. Streets were decorated in the Christmas spirit, and Christmas music played in every shop. With the cold crisp air outside, the atmosphere was filled with magic.

This was something Annie desperately had wanted to share with her dear friend. She wanted him to feel the magic in the air. The Dutch Christmas felt so much different to Annie from the summery South African Christmas. She knew Isaac would experience the same. In South Africa, they were used to having a Christmas tree inside the house, but on Christmas day, everyone was outside. For many years during her childhood, they didn’t even have a Christmas tree, since they were on holidays somewhere else in the country and it would have been too much effort to put a tree in a caravan or a tent.

Christmas in the Netherlands was a lot cozier than Christmas back in Annie’s country of birth. She enjoyed seeing the amazement on Isaac’s face as he looked at the Christmas decorations and listened to the Christmas music.

They bought nothing. After each of them had a healthy sandwich and something to drink at a restaurant, they returned home. They had discussed their plans for the weekend and decided Isaac would join Annie for shopping on Saturday and then he and Jacques would go to the city center on Sunday afternoon. That way Isaac could buy them Christmas presents too. Both Annie and Jacques didn’t want Isaac to buy anything, but he insisted.

On Saturday evening, Joe and Myra came to visit. They too were happy to see Isaac out of the hospital. Sitting at the kitchen table, the five of them played a card game. There was a lot of laughter and joking. Joe teased Isaac, Isaac teased Myra, Myra teased Jacques. Everyone was relaxed and having fun. It was quite late when Joe and Myra left. After they had gone, Isaac quickly retired to his bed. He wanted to get a good night’s rest before he would go shopping with Jacques the next day.

Jacques and Isaac were at the shops for about four hours on Sunday and altogether they had walked quite a distance. When they arrived home, Jacques was tired, and Isaac exhausted. He was too tired to eat dinner and retired to bed early that evening. Annie was concerned he might be getting sick again, but Isaac assured her he would be okay in the morning. He was. He felt rested after twelve hours of sleep.

Both Jacques and Annie had to work again on Monday. When Annie returned home on Monday afternoon, Isaac’s passport was on the coffee table. Annie immediately noticed this when she walked in.

“Why do you have your passport out, Isaac?” she asked.
“I think you will need it when you call Margaret,” Isaac answered.
“Call Margaret? For what?” Annie was confused now.
“We promised her we would call as soon as I’m out of the hospital, Annie. We should keep that promise,” Isaac explained.
“That’s true,” Annie admitted reluctantly. “But should we really call this week? The doctors said you should wait two weeks to see whether you stay well. I think we should only call Margaret after New Year’s Eve.”
“No Annie,” Isaac shook his head, “I want you to call her today. I know what the doctors said, but I really need to go home. I have to go home as soon as possible so the doctors there can put me on new medicine.”

It shocked Annie back to reality. She knew Isaac was right. She had to call Margaret.

The next day, they received the tickets from Margaret. Isaac would return to South Africa on the fifth day of the next year. On the phone the previous day, Margaret explained it was the first available flight, since everything was fully booked for the Christmas season.

Deep inside, Annie was relieved and happy. She knew how much Isaac wanted to go home, but she also wanted to have him with her for Christmas and for the turn of the year.

To be continued… Christmas Celebrations

Note: This series is a rework of a self-published book (2009), rewritten for this blog, and in loving memory of a dear friend who suffered from and passed because of AIDS. Keep in mind this story happens in the late eighties and throughout the nineties. Names of characters have been changed to protect their privacy.

© Rebel’s Notes
Image from Pixabay

2 thoughts on “Thirteen years: Going Home For Christmas

  1. It is hard for me to imagine summery weather at Christmas time. For my friends in Australia… it is shorts and sunglasses with Santa. A very challenging concept for this cold weather girl! XOXO

    1. I remember my first snowy Christmas back in 1994. It was amazing. I only knew summery Christmases before that 😉

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