I have a Filipino brother-in-law, Robert. He’s short and funny and bald and on my first Christmas with Benson’s family I mistook the Filipino brother-in-law for my fiancé and wrapped my arms passionately around his shoulders from behind.
After what happened this year though, I think we’re even…
It started on December 24th. I awoke with a pesky wheeze in my lung. “My chest! My chest hurts!” I huffed to Benson. He looked at me pitifully and rubbed my hair and told me he was sorry, and then went outside to jump rope. When he came back inside an hour later, he found me laying in bed sobbing with a high fever. His grandma’s Christmas party was that night, with all the aunts and uncles and first through eighth cousins and lots of macaroni and cheese and present-opening, but it was obvious I wouldn’t be attending.
Instead, Benson dropped me off at his parents’ house in Alabama, got me situated in the guest room under lots of quilts, and headed out for the party a few miles away. For the next hour, I drifted in and out of delirium and shivered in the dark, empty house…
Until I heard a noise in the living room.
It was Robert, talking to his dog and fumbling around with suitcases and gifts.
I saw his shadow pass by my bedroom doorway, but was too weak to lift a hand and wave, and any efforts to say hi ended up melting in my head before they reached my mouth. Assuming he would only be in the house for a minute before heading to the Christmas party, I rolled over and fell back into my fever-induced haze.
Until this abruptly woke me up:
Robert, in the dark, on the other side of my bedroom wall in the living room, playing the piano and singing passionately and loudly “Mary, did You Know?”
It went on…
Until the last line of the song which requires the singer to hit a tricky high note. Always the perfectionist, Robert sang the last line over and over until he hit it just right.
As it happened, when Robert walked past my bedroom, instead of seeing me, all he saw was a lumpy mound of quilts. Thinking he had the whole house to himself, he eyed the piano and rubbed his hands together in glee and sat down to enjoy some good old-fashioned solo caroling.
Later, at the Christmas party as Benson gave Robert a warm hug, Robert asked, “Where’s Christina?”
“Oh, she’s back at Mama and Daddy’s. She’s sick.”
Robert’s face fell and he nearly dropped his plate of stuffing. “She’s, she’s at your parents’?”
And now Robert and I are even.