Monday, December 15, 2014

The Christmas Spurs

This last book for the  year of 2014 is one that, although may be a seasonal "children's chapter book", it also speaks the TRUE MEANING of the Christmas spirit. While TODAY'S generation is all about the "GIMME", this story is one that SHOULD bring life down to REALITY. EVERYONE should have gratitude. It should shine more when a sibling sees an illness in their face. Shining through a holiday season, this book is one for all generations. For anyone who grows up w/ a sick sibling, this book is for you. Giving heart to the season, here is The Christmas Spurs.

With the younger brother, Jimmy, life was different. He was never yelled at and was always granted to do more. The older brother, Nick, asked why? It was due to expecting more out of him, Nick. A new mall was in construction that was coming to their Oklahoma town. A task that seemed really IMPORTANT to the townspeople. A mall similar to The Mall Of America in size. They seen the construction on the way to the Children's Memorial Hospital for Jimmy's appointment. Of course, with 2 boys, sick or not, there is always that tig for tat. One brother getting attention while the other sits in the waiting room. Jimmy was scared and didn't want to let go of Nick's hand. He was terrified and awaited his big brother. Nick was scared as well, but being the older, big brother, you can't show fear. You HAVE to be BRAVE! Nick had to pry his fingers loose from Jimmy. Jimmy went in w/ their mother while Nick waited w/ their daddy. Their dad KNEW this appointment would be awhile. He offered to take Nick to a movie, but Nick refused, wanting to wait on his mom & brother. Jimmy had a DAY of tests at the doctor's office. He often has to go for tests. Even though he got up to go w/ their dad, Nick didn't want to leave his brother. Their dad wanted to do something to occupy the wait time. You could sense that Nick didn't want to do anything without his brother. In a sense that it wasn't fair. If Jimmy can't, I shouldn't get to either. He thought he could tell Jimmy of his sightful findings when they go back after the appointment.

When the appointment finished, it was rush hour traffic again. It was an excruciating ride home. Jimmy was tired and HAD to lay in his brother's lap. He had Band-Aid's on his arms and went to sleep. It was more common for Jimmy to fidget around and more, Today was different. They thought to eat out, but grabbed drive thru instead. Even though she was nervous, their mom didn't eat her food, just played with it. When they got home, Nick could sense by his parents actions that something was going on that he didn't know. Jimmy & Nick went to play outside in the backyard. Nick was trying to get some kind of information out of his unknowing brother. While they were playing, Nick was given details of what happened at the appointment. Being a child, he didn't KNOW what it was he had. He had an MRI. Nick told Jimmy of the day he had w/ their dad. While Jimmy was prepping for them to watch John Wayne in The Cowboys, Nick looked out the window to see their father fussing with the lawnmower. He didn't expect to see what he would commonly see. Their dad sat down right in the middle of the yard and put his face in his hands. Seeing that really scared Nick. Now, he KNEW something TRULY wasn't right or okay. But being the big brother, you can't act on your emotions. Nick DEMANDED answers for what was going on. Since NOBODY would tell him, he sought to find out on his own.

Nick had an unrestful night ahead of him due to Jimmy's tossing/turning all night. It wasn't that, it was something else. He finally managed to settle down. When Nick was sure Jimmy was asleep, he used an old trick of his by creeping out of his bedroom door and right to the one in front of his parent's room. He listened outside the door to see if he could find out anything about Jimmy. Nothing. At the end of the next week, the family went to a different location to get a second opinion. When the appointment finished, their parents took them to food and a movie. After the day was over, their mom couldn't hold her emotions anymore and let them out. Jimmy didn't say much except that he was tired and didn't like being poked w/ needles. Both boys were scared but Nick didn't let his feelings show. At least Jimmy was tired enough to crash out while Nick tried sneaking out information again.

Even though Jimmy was awake when they got home, when it got to be bedtime, Nick tried to read to him. That was when Jimmy quietly confessed what he could hear in the doctor's office. All he knows is that he has to return for treatment. Jimmy didn't think it was fair that he wasn't privy to the information of his own illness. It was time. Both boys went to their parents together who were in the kitchen WANTING ANSWERS. They told their parents what clues lead to the pieces of the puzzle they had. Now, they just wanted that FINAL piece. They just didn't think it was fair if there was an illness, the patient had a RIGHT to KNOW! Family truth around the table. There is medicine involved, but not the kind they think. Having to get treatments for the disease he has. They informed him of what more there would be outside of a pill. Hearing it gave Nick a chill. He tried to hold it, but tears welled up on their dad. Their mom told them the truth. Jimmy has Leukemia.

Of course, Nick has no sleep that night after hearing and processing what he heard. It wasn't what was said, it was the words in which were. That night, Jimmy & NIck left their door peered open to quietly find out more, until their mom made them close it. Nick checked on Jimmy, who frowned at what he heard. He wiped a tear from his eye onto his shoulder. He HAD to be the MOST POSITIVE in front of his brother as he's EVER been! The more Jimmy asked questions, the HARDER Nick had to keep from crying. Somewhere between tears and sniffling (quietly to themselves), they both managed to fall asleep. On days Jimmy would receive treatment, he would be w/ their mom while Nick was w/ their dad. A routine they would get used to! When they went to retrieve mother and son, they tried/had to go back into the treatment area. Only one problem: the ward was closed to everyone but parents. Nick HAD to wait in the waiting room. It began to upset his dad, but Nick ASSURED him it was OKAY! He was big enough to wait solo. It UPSET their dad enough to give the hospital staff a LOOK! Nick was NERVOUS being alone in a clean hospital waiting room. Their mom came out later to inform Nick and their dad they were going home. Jimmy and their mom would stay a bit due to Jimmy being REAL SICK after his treatment. Their dad was put in charge of "home chores". Mom informed Dad of the normalcy within this process. Their dad tried to make/keep life normal for Nick with NO luck. Nick KNEW life is/wouldn't be the same.

Their dad's voice made everything "okay", but his inner voice spoke the TRUTH! His words weren't REAL! Over a 3 month course, Jimmy NEVER got USED to the medicine. Every trip taken was a 3 day hospital stay or more. The medicine was hard on Jimmy. The stays were harder on their mom. After awhile, she took an overnight bag w/ her. When he DID get home, Jimmy WASN'T Jimmy. . . Sometimes, but NOT ALWAYS! He was having the side effects of the treatments. He wanted to be excited but was too tired. He stayed awake while Nick was telling him. It just saddened Jimmy. When he is IN the hospital, Jimmy misses the OUTDOORS. Hospital staff were able to rearrange for treatments to be done so their mom & Jimmy could do it on Sundays. Their dad wouldn't have to miss work. Jimmy was usually home on Saturdays. He could watch cartoons, but hardly felt like it. Since Jimmy's illness, they have AVIDLY attended church every Sunday. While in church, upfront hoping his prayers for his brother to get better were HEARD. When their dad was working and their mom was w/ Jimmy, Nick stayed w/ a friend from school for the duration. He may have been w/ nice people. But NOTHING replaces your family. The week before Christmas break, Nick's teacher asked the class to write a letter to Santa. Some were to be published in  their local paper. Nick wanted a real pair of cowboy spurs and other items. The teacher advised the class to not make a LONG list. After seeing his own list, Nick KNEW what he REALLY wanted. Just one sentence said it all: "I Want My Brother and Mama Back." - Nick Tipton

This was the first time since 2ND grade that Nick TRULY believed in Santa Claus. This Sunday that letters appeared in the paper, Jimmy was taken back to the doctor. It was different this time. Jimmy's leukemia was in remission. It was a CELEBRATORY day. On Christmas Day, the house was FULL of cheer. Of course, there was the onset of kids on Christmas invading their parents. It was an early 7:30A. After a bit, the boys went to check on their parents. When they went to sneak downstairs for a peek, there weren't any presents under the tree. NO PRESENTS, NO VIDEO CAMERA & NO PARENTS! After Nick backed up a few, he instructed Jimmy to get in the same position as he was. Doing the same motions as Nick. Going around w/ NO SIGN of their parents. Their dad was outside, standing at the corner of the house w/ the video camera on his shoulder.

When their dad first caught Nick, he began shooting w/ the camera. Their mom waited until they were all inside before shooting w/ her own camera while their dad shot the video. Standing between the shots was this beautiful pinto horse. The BEST gift they could have gotten.

KNOWING what they would want, their mom was ready for them once they seen the gifts. Their dad set Jimmy up to be rode around the horse first. Nick was so excited he couldn't stop shaking. Then it was a back & forth of taking turns. As kids do, they didn't care how cold/freezing it was. Then it came time to come in and warm up. Their mom let the family dog in after keeping her in the garage away from the horse. As well as gifts left from Santa. Ripping into them as kids do. Aside from clothes, Nick got a real cowboy hat and a double-holster set of six shooters. The cowboy hat was a REAL STETSON. For Jimmy, aside from clothes, he received video games, a pair of spurs, a repeater rifle and a six shooter. All of it was plastic, but fun just the same.

After lunch, the boys were permitted to ride the horse again. They named him Buck. When they had to return inside, they wanted to enjoy their gifts. Jimmy wanted to borrow his brother's spurs to play cowboys by himself. Nick was somewhat fearful that Jimmy would tear up a new gift. After he'd been outside awhile, Jimmy had, but didn't want to come inside. Instead of taking over and arguing w/ his brother over video games, NOT only did he go RIGHT to his room, but was upset. He had broken the spurs being outside. Nick, in a brotherly manner, assured Jimmy it was okay. They went outside to the site to look for the piece that had broken from the spur. Nick TRULY didn't care; but put up a stink to amuse Jimmy. He TRULY felt bad. When it was dark, right before they went to bed, to make up for breaking the spurs, Jimmy gave Nick his STETSON cowboy hat. Nick refused to take it. He threatened to pick and mess at Jimmy if he didn't go away and get some sleep. Then it was time for bed.

Not only was it a moot point for Nick to keep the hat, it came in handy the next April when ALL of Jimmy's hair fell out. His leukemia had "started up again". Jimmy and their parents returned back to appointments twice a month. Just as before, a visit became a stay. Jimmy hated to go. He felt he HAD to put a face on in front of their parents. Sometimes at night, Jimmy would sneak into Nick's room and deeply tell his brother how he FELT! Even though they were both scared, Nick tried not to let on. Jimmy KEPT his STETSON hat on ALL THE TIME to KEEP his head covered in bed. The Monday after Easter, their mom called after Jimmy's appointment. The medicine DIDN'T make Jimmy sick this time. Nick and their dad jumped to go get them. They got word from their mom that Jimmy didn't have to come back for awhile. To celebrate, the family went to a nice restaurant. During coffee, their dad snuck off to make a call. When he returned, he had exciting news to share.

After they hurriedly finished and left, they parked in the lot next to the Cowboy Hall Of Fame. They were ALL given the opportunity to EXPLORE. Their dad spoke to the director of the Hall Of Fame. Their mom was in shock. The family was given a private tour. They were so excited! The tour was guided by someone the boys seen as a hero. It was some day. They were treated like V.V.I.P. (Very Very Important People). It was an UNFORGETTABLE experience they'll ALWAYS REMEMBER! Dubbed as "the neatest/greatest day ever." They had a REAL BUSY day. Jimmy kept taking his hat off/on. He would frown at it, wiggle the brim, turn it around & again, then put it back on. NO ONE KNEW why until that night.

John Wayne
After a day like that, Nick needed a good night's sleep. Jimmy was sitting on the edge of his own bed w/ his hat in his hands. The glow from the night-light shone on Jimmy's baldhead. The next morning, Jimmy awoke early before his brother. His awareness woke-up Nick. He sat down next to his brother. Jimmy flipped through 3 John Wayne taped movies. Nick was getting upset at not seeing the movie. Usually, Jimmy would argue back. This time was different. Jimmy was upset because he felt his hat wasn't any good. It wasn't a REAL hat. It didn't look like the one they seen at the Hall Of Fame. It wasn't all dirty and bent up. The problem was that the ones Jimmy seen were old & worn, his was BRAND-NEW. He had to give it time. Nick took his brother out to GET THE JOB DONE!

Both of the boys did EVERYTHING they could to that hat. Playing w/ it EVERY WHICH WAY possible. After a few weeks with it, the boys managed to get it dirty & smelly. EVERYONE in public KNEW Jimmy used the hat as a cover. Their mom promised that hat was going to be washed. He put up a Hell of an argument. He was CLINGING ON to that hat. Nick sought to explain why Jimmy's attachment to the hat. He forgot what to say. Jimmy was DETERMINED to clean it. Nick seen it was BEST to STAY OUT OF IT! Their mom CHASED AFTER Jimmy until she got the hat. By the time their dad got home, all the action was over.

Jimmy was in his room bowling. Nick was quietly reading his book. Their dad was HAPPY to be home. When he seen their mom, he was informed of what happened. Taking a HAPPY smile off his face. He then went into Jimmy's room. Jimmy was crying under his bed. He came back to the living room w/ a look of What? on his face. Their dad conveyed a meeting in the backyard. Once they were outside, Nick explained the ENTIRE situation. Their dad took the heat and said he would fix the hat. Jimmy was still under his bed. He wouldn't come out for their dad. Their dad pulled him out w/ one leg. With Jimmy under their dad's arm, he pronounced he would go get dinner from KFC. They would return later. While waiting in-line at the drive thru, their dad informed them of their misunderstandings of information. He said he would fix the situation when they got home.

After the KFC dinner, the ENTIRE family pitched in to help make Jimmy's hat look like a REAL cowboy hat. A "from-this-to-that" transformation. A family pitch-in craft project. During the finalization process, their dad had Jimmy put the hat holder contraption they built on the ledge. Giving Jimmy instructions to form its SHAPE. Before long, it would look like a REAL cowboy hat. It took around a month for it to look natural. You never seen such PRIDE as Jimmy did having that hat on. In late May, the family learned Jimmy would have to go back to the doctor's for more treatments. Nick didn't want Jimmy and their mom going back to that schedule of appointments. When Nick went to Sunday school, the class was asked of their favorite Bible lessons. All of the kids gave their opinions. When it was Nick's turn, he couldn't answer. His attention was focused on Jimmy. He was in a different mindset. Nick thought/listened to the miracles the class pointed out. Mentally, he was thinking of the one his own family could TRULY use RIGHT NOW.

Jimmy and their mom couldn't come home for 3 days. He was tired, pale and weak. He asked Nick to put his cowboy hat away for him. Later that night, Nick heard Jimmy in his room. Jimmy's voice was real soft as to not awaken their parents. He stated that if something were to happen to him, he declared that Nick have his cowboy hat. Nick choked on the knot in his throat. He spent the ENTIRE night around his bed. Even though Jimmy slept fine, Nick didn't get ANY! Jimmy's condition had him sleeping ALOT! He couldn't do much more than that. They went to church for counseling. Sometimes for family counseling, sometimes one-on-one. If you have faith, EVERYTHING will be alright. Nick went exploring throughout the church. He sat on the top of the balcony by way of the stairs at the back of the sanctuary. The balcony was at the HIGHEST place of the WHOLE ENTIRE church. By the end of June, Jimmy quit coming into Nick's room at night to talk. He just went to bed. His doctor visits were shorter. He wasn't as scared as he used to be. It was like he didn't care as much anymore. He lost a bunch of weight. It didn't occur to anyone until after a 4TH of July celebration. To everyone's surprise, Jimmy began to feel better.

Jimmy was in a fast-paced mood to play Cowboys. After they changed into their attire, they ran and played outside. What started out fun soon became SERIOUS! One minute Jimmy looked at Nick, the next his arms went limp and he plopped to the ground. His hat fell off when he went down. All of a sudden, Nick's heart jumped into his throat. Jimmy was still & stiff. At first, Nick thought Jimmy was still playing, until he seen his brother. He was so small & fragile. Nick felt real heavy and his heart stopped. Jimmy was NOT moving. Next thing you know, Jimmy was faking out his brother in playing. That got Nick not wanting to play anymore. It TRULY scared him. It brought Nick to a NEW REALITY.

Jimmy got to feeling worse. By the end of July, he was readmitted in the hospital. This time was a stay. The day was August 12. A day Nick will NEVER FORGET. Jimmy was sick and SLEEPING around the clock. Throughout the week, the family, aside from school, was there 24/7. He had a private room where the family stayed w/ him. They slept in shifts so someone was w/ Jimmy all the time. The only time Jimmy was alone was during trips to the cafeteria. When they were alone, Nick was talking to Jimmy who was out of it asleep. Nick would go upclose to Jimmy to see if he was breathing or had a heartbeat. If he DID, Nick smiled and sighed w/ relief and continue. After eating that afternoon and returning to Jimmy's room, a doctor and 2 nurses were JUST exiting from his room. At the doorway to his room, the doctor stopped their mom. He/the doctor tightly hugged her. Nick and their dad raced up because they KNEW it was a HAVE TO GET THERE moment. The doctor sadly told them Jimmy was gone. He had passed away about 10 minutes ago prior.

Their mom was in HORRIBLE grief. She had just lost her son who died alone in his room. She COMPLETELY Fell Apart! Nick tried to comfort his mom. He couldn't continue to see her hurt. After she calmed down, the parents consoled each other. When no one noticed, Nick snuck over to Jimmy and laid his hand on his brother's chest. NOTHING but Silence. Nick clung to him until their dad had to pry him off of Jimmy. Then the family cried together. Jimmy's funeral was 3 days later. During the service, Nick whispered that he loved his brother. Nick KNEW that Jimmy didn't want to be buried without his hat. NONE of the other adults understood, but Nick did.

Nick just felt empty. No hurt, not happy. Just EMPTY! He confessed this to his parents 2 days after the funeral. Time heals ALL wounds. Not feeling better after 2 months. School began on August 22ND. Being busy helps forget your sorrow. Going home was another story. Life is NOT the same. He wasn't so interested in Buck anymore. Their  mom and dad gave him a good home in the country. He did love Buck, but it just brought Nick to feelings of missing Jimmy. In early November, Jimmy's belongings were donated to The Salvation Army. It was a good & hard thing to do. Nick didn't want anything. He did stick Jimmy's hat onto the TOP of the chimney in a safe place and position.

School in the 5TH Grade was harder, but a GREAT distraction. Certain friends were gone and moved. Now Nick's brother and friends were gone. School itself wasn't bad. Nick never got in trouble or anything. The noise from music class reminded Nick of Jimmy's laugh. Due to not participating, Nick was sent to the principal and the counselor. He didn't feel like divulging how he felt, it HIT at the reason why the disruption at home. Nick did homework, played games on Nintendo, except for Jimmy's games. At night, he would think about Jimmy. Certain aspects would bring back memories. Using books from the library were an escape. When he wasn't reading, he tried to think of the Christmas Tree at church. When the minister brought it up, Nick's ears perked. A tree to be decorated w/ handmade stuff. Bringing stuff from home that was homemade. Something very special to share with others. Nick tried to think of something special to share. The Saturday before Christmas Sunday, Nick still didn't have anything for the tree, so he finally gave up.

Since Jimmy's passing, their dad has used work as a vitality to keep him busy. It was work in many locations. Nick being a kid just thinks Daddy works ALOT. Their mom was the same way to keep busy. She went back to teaching. At home, she stayed busy cleaning. Nick realized that NO MATTER how old/young you are; when you lose someone you love, HURT HURTS.  The family was hurting and each coping the best way they KNEW how. After Nick was instructed to give the dog a bath, he got himself prepped and ready. Then of course, comes the dog chase. In the midst of chasing after the dog outside and having to reach in and retrieve him from the doghouse, something gold caught the corner of his eye. It was so close to him yet so far enough away to REACH. In the crack of the doorway and after getting positioned enough to see what it was, it was the little gold star Jimmy had broken off of his brother's spur from last Christmas.

Their dad had been working at the Church. It was for Christmas, but also keeping busy essence. That was main topic of conversation. Nick's parents didn't really talk that much anymore. After he was sure his parents were asleep, Nick carefully snuck out to the backyard. He put his foot upon the stepladder and climbed up. Jimmy's hat, along w/ the Styrofoam hat intact, where Jimmy said it was. It was wedged in the crack of the doorway of the dog's house. He was so happy he found it. Conversing w/ Jimmy's spirit, Nick spoke of things and moments they have had and shared. He gave an update on what changed from them. He found and fixed the broken spur. It was good as new. He stood on-top of the ladder for a long time. He looked at the hat w/ different eyes. Nick placed the fixed spur in a safe place and position next to Jimmy's hat. The way light rays caught the tip of the little gold star on the spurs shined. It was all quiet. Just Nick, Jimmy's hat and, the Spurs. For some reason, Nick didn't feel so alone & empty. The spurs were going to be a SECRET between brothers. Just between them.

In Church the next day, Sunday, their dad and other volunteers helped work on the new Sunday school rooms. That was why Nick's dad was out/gone so late the other night. It was an HONORABLE mention for the ENTIRE church. He mentioned projects that will happen in the future. After noticing the accurately discussed remodels, it brought Nick back to that emptiness he felt when Jimmy died. The changes in the church made Nick miss what used to be. Due to the changes, Nick felt that God had left him now. First - his best friend's move, Second - Jimmy died and "left". Now, God has left him. Nick was left w/ an EMPTY SADNESS that made him shiver. He felt like he had NOTHING left. For the FIRST time, Nick FELT ALONE!

Nick couldn't help but bury his face in his hands and cry. He had to stop due to commentary from others. When it came time to sing, he took a deep breath and let the music out. Then it happened. The bass note of the organ stuck and created a worse scene with the conductor. Trying to fix it, she made it worse! The entire room/atmosphere was hearing this LOUD noise. Next thing, a cold wind blew in. Things were in disarray as everyone tried to block it. As the deacons tried to close the window site, the LOUD noise grew LOUDER. Windows and walls were shaking. The conductor had to finally unplug the organ. A hush fell over the ENTIRE congregation. The LOUD noises STOPPED. Everything did. Everyone was at a stand still due to being scared it would happen again. There was NOTHING but STILLNESS. Finally, the Reverend let go of the tree.

When the windows closed, everything calmed down. Everyone tried/got their bearings back. The minister re-assessed the tree. He cocked his head to the side, studying the ONLY thing in that church that was STILL moving. One of the tree limbs waved up and down, apparently pushed by some unseen wind. A bottom limb by the FAR side of the tree. The minister walked around for a closer look. He frowned curiously at the ornament on the tip of the bouncing branch. The ornament was a pair of toy cowboy spurs just wigging and swaying. Next thing you know, a sound of tiny bells jingling erupted like the one similarly just like . . . . Jimmy's laugh. It gave Nick chills to his heart. An excited feeling that took his breath away. His heart stopped. Similar to when Jimmy would hug him. Only this time, he hugged Nick's heart. It gave Nick shivers. A tear fell from his eye and he instantly heard himself laugh. The first time he has laughed in a LONG time. While the church was quiet, Nick was giggling. After he was caught, he got quiet. He was laughing on the inside. On the way home, he told his parents why he was laughing. It was something good.

Nick just never said what. He never told them about the backyard and the chimney. Even through the strong winds, when Nick got home, he found the Styrofoam head, but Jimmy's hat was gone. It made him think of the lesson his Sunday school teacher taught about miracles. After he got home, Nick secretly KNEW Jimmy was safe on Christmas Sunday. Jimmy had his hat. When they were in church, if he promised to keep quiet, Nick wanted to sit in the balcony by himself. Thing is: he wasn't. He/Nick had Jimmy.

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