I shouldn’t be here. I should be home with my family.
Sarah pushed her cart down the endless hospital corridor, stopping at each patient’s room to distribute medications. The clock at the nurses’ station read 10 a.m. By this time, even her youngest sister Michelle would have dragged herself out of bed to open her Christmas presents. Mom would have been up for hours, of course, stuffing the turkey and getting everything just right for the big family dinner. By noon, her aunts and uncles and cousins would arrive bearing gifts of sweets and other foods. Grandma would tie an apron around her waist and mash potatoes until they were as smooth and frothy as freshly whipped cream and just as tasty.
And she’d miss all of it.
Sarah tried to push away the resentment and loneliness but they persisted, nagging at her like a toothache. As a newly minted registered nurse and low man on the totem pole on her ward, she’d had no choice but to work over Christmas. The other nurses commiserated, but were unwilling to trade shifts. Get used to it, they told her. We’ve all been through it. This is the job you’ve chosen, and it means that at times you’ll have to work when you’d rather be somewhere else.
Easy for them to say, Sarah thought bitterly. They could go home after work and be with their families. They could still celebrate Christmas with their loved ones. Her family was six hundred kilometers away. By the time she arrived at her parents’ home on December 28, all the presents would be opened, the turkey eaten, the relatives gone home.
Homesickness settled in her heart, creating a painful lump in her chest.
She pushed the cart into room 203 and checked her charts; Mrs. Grant was in her seventies and had just had a right hip replacement. She required medication for pain and high blood pressure. She’d had a difficult time the last few days. Immediately after surgery she’d been plagued with a stubborn infection. They’d just gotten the infection under control when she fell trying to get to the washroom on her own, reinjuring her hip and increasing her pain and recovery time. Sarah felt sorry for her; Mrs. Grant probably didn’t want to be in the hospital anymore than she did.
Sarah was surprised to see a small potted Christmas tree adorned with tiny red bows on the stand next to Mrs. Grant’s bed. “Have a holly, jolly Christmas” boomed from a portable stereo. Her patient smiled brightly from under her furry Santa hat.
“Hello, Sarah! Merry Christmas!”
Despite herself, Sarah smiled. “Hello, Mrs. Grant. You’re looking very cheery today.”
“Of course I am. It’s Christmas Day.”
Sarah poured a glass of water and handed her the pills. “Where did you get the little tree from? It’s cute.”
“I ordered it from the florist. Had to do something to put some Christmas spirit into this place. I got some chocolates for visitors, too. ” Mrs. Grant gestured to the windowsill beside her bed to a large, open box of chocolates. “Help yourself.”
Sarah selected a chocolate covered maraschino cherry, her favorite. “Hmm. Delicious. Thank you. That’s a big box. Are you expecting lots of visitors today?”
“No, not really. A lot of the folks in my seniors’ complex don’t drive anymore so they won’t be coming over. And besides, most will be with their families today.”
“What about your family? They must be missing you.”
Mrs. Grant gave a wistful smile. “My husband and I weren’t able to have children of our own. We have three nieces and two nephews but they all live out of town. Ralph died three years ago so I’m on my own now.”
Sarah’s sympathy must have shown on her face. Mrs. Grant wagged her finger. “Now, don’t start feeling sorry for me. I have lots of friends at the seniors’ complex and my nieces and nephews are like my own children. I’ll admit that being in the hospital over Christmas isn’t ideal, but Christmas is what you make of it, isn’t it?”
Sarah suddenly felt ashamed. She’d done nothing but whine and feel sorry for herself for missing Christmas day with her family. This likely wouldn’t be the last holiday she’d be separated from them. Like Mrs. Grant said, she needed to make the best of it. Maybe she could start with an attitude adjustment.
“Yes, you’re right, Christmas is what you make of it. Can I borrow your hat for a while?”
Mrs. Grant handed it to her. “Of course. What do you plan to do with it?”
Sarah popped it on her head. “Spread a little cheer, I hope. Merry Christmas, Mrs. Grant.”
“Merry Christmas, Sarah.”
She pushed her cart down the corridor once more, her heart a little lighter. “Ho, ho, ho, everyone! Merry Christmas! Here comes Nurse Santa! Merry Christmas!”
About the Author: Jana Richards has tried her hand at many writing projects over the years, from magazine articles and short stories to full-length paranormal suspense and romantic comedy. She loves to create characters with a sense of humor, but also a serious side. She believes there’s nothing more interesting then peeling back the layers of a character to see what makes them tick.
When not writing up a storm, working at her day job as an Office Administrator, or dealing with ever present mountains of laundry, Jana can be found on the local golf course pursuing her newest hobby.
Jana lives in Western Canada with her husband Warren, and a highly spoiled Pug/Terrier cross named Lou. You can reach her through her website at http://www.janarichards.net.