Rachels’ Ramblings – 12.15.11
Posted: Friday, December 16, 2011 1:50 pm
By: Sara Rachels, Staff Writer
When gloomy wintry days seem gloomier, when words seem to slice sharper and when happiness, at times, seems hard to find, one of the best parts of the Christmas season and throughout the year is having a person or people around who will constantly remind you there is a Santa.
And not only that, but a person who doesn’t hesitate to warm you with a smile, makes you laugh during times of difficulty and causes you to feel like the most important person in the room by shouting your name as you enter. This is the kind of person who brings the magic of Christmas into a dark situation all throughout the year.
In a world where a simple “thank you” is difficult to find, pats on the back are as rare as hen’s teeth and toughness and callousness are placed above sympathy, emotion and doing the right thing, this person ignores the rules, breaks the barriers and places the feelings of the person above the importance of the situation.
Imagine a person like this in your life or pinpoint one you already know.
Now, imagine that person gone or diminished.
Just as eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon was reminded in a now-famous editorial in The New York Sun that, yes, there is a Santa Claus, it often takes a strong force, a selfless act or even a tragic circumstance to remind us that we do have a person or people in our lives that are like Santa Clauses year round – they give us gifts, often intangible, that lift us up, brighten our day and give us hope when we least expect it and seem to need it the most.
For me, that person is Patsy Tibbs.
Patsy walks in the back door every Tuesday and Thursday to stuff and roll the papers and the first thing she asks (after she screams out everyone’s name in greeting) is if I’ll make more coffee.
Nary a day goes by when she doesn’t spread much-needed cheer to all of the staff. Her smile fills up her entire face and her laugh echoes off the back walls and into the front office area.
Simply mention Santa or her champion-level bocci skills or her boyfriend and she turns red and laughs even louder.
One day very recently, however, Patsy came into the back and she didn’t smile. She didn’t say anything besides making short, quick replies to questions. Her head stayed down and she worked as fast as ever, but without emotion. The life in her seemed gone. She was afraid. In a few short words, we learned she’d had a checkup and the doctor had found a lump in her breast.
As blood tests, a biopsy and surgery loomed, Patsy slowly returned to being herself, but remained slightly altered. Each day was new territory. Each minute provoked fears and thoughts she’d never before considered.
The Friday before her surgery on the following Monday, I never mentioned a word to Patsy, yet she opened up about her operation, saying she would have to be out for a few days, but was looking forward to coming back.
After the surgery, we found out that a lump the size of a lemon had been found in Patsy’s breast, she had a mastectomy and, because the lump was found to be malignant, she would be requiring chemotherapy treatments and her return date to work would be uncertain.
Every year, around Christmas, we have a special party at work. It goes by the title, “Patsy’s Party.” More than anything else, we love to sit back and watch Patsy’s face as she opens the gifts, marvels at each and every one, grins and laughs. It never takes much – a bright pair of socks, a box of cookies, a warm hat – but she loves each one equally.
She tells us she loves us. And even though seeing her smiling face is enough of a gift for any of us, she always manages to provide us with wrapped packages in return.
Right now, we’re still unsure if the guest of honor will be able to join us this year as the party is set for Tuesday.
While typing up Santa letters over the past few days, we received a phone call from a mother who wanted to know what her son wanted for Christmas in his letter. He refused to tell her and remarked that just sending it to Santa would be enough. He is counting on his belief.
O’Hanlon counted on her belief, though she had to be reminded never to let doubt creep in and destroy her hope.
We don’t know when our own personal Santa, in the form of Patsy, will be back to bring a smile to our faces again. We hope that her spirits stay up as she’s always been able to keep ours up.
We will always believe in her.
Sara Rachels may be contacted by email at email@example.com.