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My Personal Christmas 2020

Updated: Jan 12, 2021

It sure was a strange year and an equally strange Christmas for everyone.

Each year I make an effort to reach out to family and to as many friends and relations as possible by writing and chatting to them. We share memories and keep up to date with health and family issues.

My first port of call this year was Basildon in London to check in with my uncle ,who is 92 years old. He lives with his daughter .He told me he gets up every morning to make his Quaker porridge. He now drinks the odd glass of mulled wine instead of his light ale.

I asked him if he was worried about the Corona virus and he told me that being born in 1928 his parents spoke a lot about the 1918 pandemic and the first world war, and they survived it.

He also survived the horrors of the Second World War, so he didn’t think this present pandemic was all that bad. Everything is relative to a person’s life experiences.

Next on my call tour was my first cousin in Connecticut. He celebrated his 80th birthday last week. At this stage of his life, he has merged the company he founded 27 years ago with a larger company. This gives him greater back office support and administrative resources. The Lockdown and Trumpism were the main problems bothering him as well as having to cancel an Irish 3-week holiday break. He was in good health and attributed it to early rising to make his Flahavan’s porridge followed by a good exercise routine. I advised him to change over to Quaker oats.

Continuing on the American journey I popped over to Oregon to greet another relation who is a pastor with the Church of Christ Jesus. I sent him greetings and all the latest news on our Seal Sanctuary in Courtown. He is now thinking of adopting a seal.

I had spoken to my first cousin in Boston pre -Christmas and we got up to speed with our current family situations. He is a true Democrat and was delighted with Joe Biden’s victory. Equally his daughter gave birth to their second grandchild and that gave them great joy. Otherwise, they have the same frustrations as us with bad weather and Corona restrictions. We are both the same age with me being just 2 days older on the 73rd rung of the chronological ladder.

Returning to Ireland I checked in with my 90-year-old aunt via her daughter’s what’s app. She fell at home at the beginning of December and was sent to hospital for a 4-day check-up. Fortunately, she had no major injuries. Her arthritic knee had given way on her. They changed her medication, and she was released to follow her home routine of using her exercise bike and eating her daily porridge and brown bread.

I cross the Atlantic again for my next visit. This time it’s up to leafy Vermont to Tony who is 94 while Pat is just 90.They were in great form as they were heading down to Virginia for the winter warmth. They were all agog with their latest great grandchild and their daughter Gwen’s new book “Best Laid Plans”. I forgot to ask them if they eat porridge every morning but from recall I think they start with generous bowls of fresh fruit. They are great Democrats and being from Delaware originally, via Castlefin, Co Donegal ancestry, they were thrilled with Joe Biden’s victory . Their family members, living in California, Pennsylvania and Montana, are likewise pleased with the result.

I return to Manchester to check in with my relations in that great mecca of football. Here I was jolted back to reality and the frailty of life. There was no talk here about longevity or dietary habits in prolonging life. They were always full of cheer. They are avid Man U supporters but today there was no bonhomie, no football discussed. Their mood was more sombre and very sad. They had buried my first cousins 34-year-old daughter. This was the second death in the family as in August another first cousin had buried one his daughters aged in her thirties also. Their deaths were not Covid related. This was a sad family Christmas for them. The girls were buried with their mums who both died in the last few years from lung ailments. Our conversation was the voice of comforting and sympathy for them in their great loss of family loved ones at Christmas.

Crossing the Irish Sea once more I return to the Kingdom of Kerry to touch base with my sister who was spending Christmas with her daughter and family. The mood here was in total contrast to my relations in Manchester. They were in great form sending me video clips of their matching PJs .All the chat was about Christmas dinner starters, boned and rolled turkeys , desserts etc. We had a good chat about presents and exercise and are fully up to speed on all family affairs in the Killarney , Killorglin, Portarlington and Tralee ends of the family.

My first cousin in Killorglin was very happy .In the week prior to Christmas she had been to Cork and got the all-clear in her scans for her 12 months post cancer check-up.

Next stop on our tour was a stopover in New York. We checked in with a niece of my wife who had tested positive for Corona. She had just finished her isolation period and was happy to have a chat. She was delighted that Joe Biden had won and that her visa chances were better. We finished up discussing the stock exchange and where there might be opportunities for them. It was lovely to hear the New York accent with a distinct Wexford twang.

We had spoken to my sister-in-law in Australia. They had the prawns ready for starters and had had the turkey purchased. It was unreal to watch them getting ready for Christmas with the sweat dripping off them suffering 39 degrees. They had the air-conditioning on full blast while we ,at home In Gorey ,had the central heating on full belt and were still cold. HOT WHISKEY PLEASE.

On this side of the family Christmas was tinged with sadness when a 55-year-old first cousin of my wife died after a brain tumour and due to Corona virus restrictions, we were unable to attend the funeral. This was another very sobering moment for the family and reminds us once again of the frailty of life.

We checked in with all the family members around us exchanging Christmas greetings and making sure all the Christmas dinner bubble arrangements were safe and that everyone was happy and safe with them . Strange times indeed.

For ourselves we had a lovely quiet relaxing dinner at home this year, albeit with only the three of us which was very nice and relaxing.

In the evening we headed out to Santa land to distribute presents to grandchildren and have a little drinkie and Christmas nibbles and share in the excitement of Santa presents. This was truly the high point of Christmas 2020.

When you see how children rip open the Christmas presents with such pent-up excitement you experience the sheer joy in their eyes. It is only then you realise that Christmas is really for children. It was really fantastic to be present for that moment of discovery when the wrapping was all torn away and a toy or book popped out.

It was all a bit surreal going out visiting, wearing facial masks ,leaving windows open, keeping our distance and conscious that we should not spend too long there for the visit.

We returned home to make some more family phone calls and reply to text messages that came in during the day.

At day’s end it was so nice to sip a nip of brandy and ginger, put up the legs and later retire to the leaba after a stranger, more relaxed than usual ,Christmas Day 2020.

It will certainly be recorded in the annals of many families and will be recalled for many a Christmas to come.

We are most grateful to have What’s App, Facetime ,laptops and mobile phones that gave

us the opportunity to have had such excellent family link ups during Christmas 2020.

I also think we are lucky to have survived the virus so far. We must count our blessings and think about and share the grief of family members who have suffered through illness and bereavement during the past year.

We must also think of those selfish people who disregarded the public heath warnings. It is sad and tragic that so many people had house parties and socialised and unnecessarily spread the virus causing too many cases and deaths .It is so sad to think we have so many people who think only about themselves and are not cognisant that their selfish actions in not wearing masks, or not social distancing, caused so much damage to their families and local communities.

We will keep you all in our thoughts and prayers in 2021.

Stay safe and please stay virtually connected with family members and friends.

Mick O Callaghan

31/12/2020

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