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Turning Tables: A Christmas Story

December 23, 2016
Another Way for week of December 23, 2016
Turning Tables: A Christmas Story
Why had Midge insisted they invite her father to move in with them? Didn’t they truly have enough “family” on their hands when their 28-year-old son, Bob, had moved back home?
“Coming, Dad,” Midge sighed in response to her father’s insistent “Midge, Midge, I need some help back here!” On her way past the bathroom, she grabbed a package of corn pads, adhesive tape, and scissors. Of course Cleve couldn’t reach his toes himself. Of course the cushion helped his walking be less painful.
“Can’t you turn up the heat in here?” Dad asked when she got to the door of his room.
“You’re still cold?” she shook her head. He had on long underwear, a thick flannel shirt and sweat pants, plus a plush men’s housecoat. His bushy eyebrows just furrowed in response.
“Well it is December and this is still Siberia to me,” he shrugged. Ever since her mother had first become sick several years ago, Cleve missed not being able to sojourn in Florida for three or four months of sunshine. He said the cold crept into his toes at the end of October and didn’t leave until April.
“Do you want a new corn pad?” asked Midge, holding out the supplies.
“Well no, why would I? You just put one on yesterday,” Cleve reminded her.
“You just took a bath, I thought you’d want a clean one.”
“That costs money,” he shot back. “You think …”
“Yes, I know it doesn’t grow on trees,” she responded. Did fathers ever change?
“But I wouldn’t mind if you helped me get on the computer again,” Cleve said without the edge in his voice.
Midge smiled. It was his favorite pastime. Email, Facebook, they both helped him stay in touch with his family, he said. Friends from longer ago who now lived too far away. There was a daily devotional he loved receiving, and checking to see if there were any new pictures of his great grandchildren posted. For the 100th time she was glad her daughter Bianca had had the patience to introduce him to the computer and then the Internet years ago, while her mother, Olivia, was still living.
Life before her mother’s cancer was so much easier for all of them. Cleve was not quite so, what? Cantankerous? Curmudgeonly? Needy?
All of the above. “I’ll try,” she gave him a half smile without an eye roll. “I just need to gather some Christmas gifts I want to take to the office.” She turned on her father’s tablet which he kept by his chair so it could update.
“Hmph. Christmas. I sure don’t need anything. Don’t you go spending any money on things I don’t need,” her father reminded her again. “What I want I won’t get back.”achristmastree
Of course it was true. None of them would ever get back her mother, and this was their first Christmas without her. Almost a year now. “I know, Dad. I know. But give me a sec and while your computer fires up I’ll find your favorite places for you. And I’ll turn up the heat.”
Whether her father stayed with them longterm was still up for grabs. They had said they’d “see how it went.” It was okay, and she was grateful he was still fine to be by himself each day until she came home at noon and fixed lunch for them both. In the afternoon while she went back to the office, he took a long nap. Together they’d go for a walk in late afternoon: just once around the track (for him) at the nearby elementary school, or inside at the college gym when it was too cold. There was much to be grateful for. Her husband Dave could fill in at home when not seeing clients. She was thrilled their son Bob now had a job–they didn’t actually see him a lot. Yet he could be leaned on in an emergency, or if she and Dave wanted a date night.
So many tables had turned—Cleve and Olivia had often kept Bob and Bianca when they were small so she and Dave could go out.
Midge started the car, finished packing her briefcase, then ran back in the house to help her father get settled with his tablet. “Remember you can always go back to the start up screen if you lose where you are,” she prompted. “Here’s the phone. Call me if you need me.”
“No, I won’t bother you. You have so much to take care of,” he shook his head, his face puckering as if he were going to cry. “But it’s nice to be here,” he finished as he shook himself out of the near sob.
Midge walked back and gave her dad a half hug. “Love you,” she said pecking him on the forehead. “See you.”
He just smiled and started hunting for what his sisters, nieces and nephews were doing or saying on his Facebook community. He was actually humming a Christmas carol. Things would be okay.
For a free booklet, “Getting Through the Holidays When You’ve Lost a Loved One,” email me at or write to Another Way Media,  Box 363 , Singers Glen,  Va. 22850.
Getting Through the Holidays When You’ve Lost a Loved One
Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books, most recently Whatever Happened to Dinner. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  
  1. In the end, it’s all about keeping warm, isn’t it . . . ?

    • Yes, in one way or another.
      And Cleve is a mix of people I have known, of course. At one point over the weekend I was panicking: Oh, is Marian’s husband’s name Cleve?? What will she think?

      No, of course not, but Cliff! Thanks for your comment. 🙂 I was mainly off-line over Christmas.

      • Ha ha! I cleave to Cliff, and I don’t care if you mess up with names, which you actually didn’t. That gives me permission to mess up a time or two too!

  2. Lovely, Melodie. I know the sound of that near sob.

  3. So nice to read some fiction from you, Mom!

  4. Athanasia permalink

    Midge? Is that really a name? I’ve heard Madge…that is a name in an Adventure in Odyssey story…Madge and Guy. Cleve is short for Cleveland? I would think it is very hard to come up with names for fictional characters… so much to think and over-think.

    Well, I hope it works out for Cleve.

    • No, it is a made up name but I did read it somewhere before of someone who had been named that. Yeah, fiction is a different animal. 🙂 I guess Cleve was a twist on Clive, which is more common.

      • Athanasia permalink

        Clive sounds very British.

    • Athanasia permalink

      OK, it looks like Midge was Barbie doll friend from 1963 to 1967. My sister and I would have missed that. We had a variety of Barbie dolls and Skipper but no Ken dolls. We also didn’t get to buy any of the cute doll outfits for sale…our dolls came with wardrobe made by my Grandma and Mother or we could make our own.

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