It was the month of December when a deadly blizzard hit Southern Ontario. During the storm my cousin’s twelve-year-old daughter, Debbie, had been rushed to the hospital. She had a connective tissue disorder which affected her muscles. It also left her with a weakened immune system. As a result, Debbie developed a severe case of pneumonia. She would not be home to celebrate Christmas.
My father, who suffered from depression, had been standing on the bottom step of the oak stairs that led to the second floor of our house, when Mom gave him the news. Four days of desolation had rendered him incapable of leaving his room. Mom had brought his meals upstairs and left a tray in front of his closed door. Hours later, she would often collect the tray only to find that the food had not been touched.
“Debbie’s in the hospital, again,” said Mom as she approached the stairs and looked up at Dad.
Dad stood before her with a bristly growth of stubble that covered his cheeks and chin. The shirt that he wore was heavily soiled with food. One frayed blue striped suspender drooped below the waist of his pants.
“That poor kid,” Dad said as he turned and glanced out of the window at the snow-covered arbor beside our house. This latest development with Debbie gave Dad pause to focus on someone else’s suffering.
The following day, my father shoveled the snow from the driveway, cleaned off his mint green Pontiac, drove away and returned with a 3’ 10” white box. Inside was a life-sized doll with long brown curly hair. She had eyes that opened and closed and a face that resembled the beauty of a child’s flawless skin. She couldn’t walk or talk, like the dolls that I once loved to play with, but she was perfect for a young girl who was confined to a hospital bed.
The doll had been splendidly attired in a pink satin gown with wrist-length sleeves and a neckline trimmed in cream colored lace. She wore clear plastic shoes that were buckled on to her feet and attached to a stand. I could visualize her as a celestial being who would watch over Debbie once the short days of winter ended and when darkness would descend upon her room.
Because of his health issues, my father worked sporadically during his lifetime. He rarely had money for gifts. At seventy-two years of age, he had been collecting Old Age Security which, in part, he used to bring happiness to a twelve-year-old girl who did not live long enough to celebrate another Christmas.