Lea’s fever rose again during the night, and her blood pressure dropped low enough late this morning that she had to be given some medicine to get it up. Later, as her temperature dropped, the need for the medicine declined, and she was eventually taken off it. She is setting a pattern of high temperature/low blood pressure that may be a significant clue into what ails her.

She slept quite a bit today, although she was somewhat alert early this morning. My sister-in-law, Dottie, and I washed her hair this morning with baby shampoo, and she seemed to enjoy the washing and combing, as usual. She was not, however, making as much contact with us, talking mostly to those unseen (by us) persons with whom she has been talking for the past few days.

Dr. Mah’s associate, Dr. Kureshi came in early this morning and said that indications are that Lea is getting over the infection, and the brain scan yesterday appears to be negative, although the staff psychiatrist will do a more thorough evaluation tomorrow to make sure there isn’t a stroke or seizures involved.

Dr. Mah stopped in mid-morning to change Lea’s dressing, and said that he was going to have one of his associates, Dr. Gomez, a neurologist, stop by to see Lea tomorrow, just to make sure nothing is being missed in evaluating the combination of drugs she is getting, and how to medicate her as she withdraws from the narcotics. He is pretty confident there is no problem other than the withdrawal. Right now, if she is allowed to be alert, she has the shakes real bad. If they sedate her enough to control the shakes, she sleeps all the time. It would be good to be able to find a happy medium, and the neurologist can help.

One of my favorite photos of Lea is a profile shot of her taken at Christmas time. She was dressed for our annual family Birthday Party for Jesus, which we do on Christmas Eve. Our celebration includes a family prayer in which we encircle the dinner table, holding hands with the person next to you, and we each take our turn thanking Jesus for our many gifts received during the year. The evening then continues with a candlelight dinner and fellowship, and concludes with a fireside reading of the Christmas story directly from the bible.

Our Christmas Day starts with opening of small gifts stuffed into oversized stockings hung by the fireside with care. If we don’t have a fireside, we hang the stockings on a special floor stand brought down from the attic once a year. The stockings are great fun and contain small items; sometimes fun, sometimes useful, sometimes edible. When those are done, we take a short break for breakfast of Lea’s Christmas casseroles, then on to the gifts under the tree.

One of the traditions we have found ourselves creating over the years, is that we always put the “best” gift for our best guy or gal clear in the back of the tree, so it gets opened last. There is always a great conspiracy between those who are handing out the gifts and everyone else; hand signals, winks, almost imperceptible nods or frowns to guide them as to when to hand out each of the special gifts to the recipient.

A few years ago I was having problems during the Christmas season, and wasn’t physically able to do a lot of the shopping and normal gift preparation for Lea. Since I knew when my surgery was scheduled, I arranged to get some instruction from a good friend on how to make stained-glass panels. I then secretly created a piece of stained glass for Lea well before Christmas, stored it at my friend’s house, and then installed it during the night on Christmas morning.

My “big” gift for her that year was my first stained-glass project, installed in her front door, and a (grand)children’s story written for her about the glass. The funny thing was that everyone in the family had come down the stairs and passed the new glass panel in the front door on their way to the stockings, and no one had noticed it. It was quite a hit after the reading of the story, though, and everyone ran back to the front door to see the glass panel! Granddaughters first!

A few “inside” clues to the story: Eugene is my middle name, Marie is hers, and the friend who taught me to do stained glass was Clint Haley, who is O’Haley in the story.

The Story of the Front Door Glass
A Christmas Story Written for Lea, by Larry
Christmas 1999

There once was a kindly, bespeckled, old Grandfather Elf, named Eugene, who lived happily with sweet Grandmother Elf, Marie, in a big gingerbread house on a country lane. Eugene loved Marie very much. And, he loved the old gingerbread house on the country lane. They were especially happy when their children and grandchildren came to visit the big gingerbread house.

But, Eugene was troubled. Christmas would be coming soon, and he had no money to buy Marie a gift. Eugene wanted a really special gift to show Marie how much he loved her. But, he looked through all his pockets and found nothing but a few coins. He looked under the rug in the parlor, where he sometimes hid money for special occasions, but found nothing. He looked under the big rocking chair, but there wasn’t anything there, either. He even looked in his best Sunday suit! But, alas, there was nothing there either.

“Oh my, oh my,” he thought. “I need some money! But, where can I get enough to buy my sweet Marie a really special gift.” He thought really hard. “I know,” he shouted out loud, “I’ll get a job!.”

But, Eugene couldn’t find a job any where. Santa’s workshop already had all the elves they could use, and it seemed no one else had work for a grandfather elf to do. So, after looking and looking, Eugene started to walk home, feeling very sad. On the way home, he stopped to rest in the shade under a large tree, across from the home of an mischievous old leprechaun named O’Haley.

O’Haley saw the sad old grandfather elf resting under the big shade tree in front of his house, and saw that Eugene looked very, very sad. O’Haley felt sorry for Eugene, and thought to himself, “I’ll bet Eugene would like something cool to drink. I’ll take him a glass of nice, cool water.” O’Haley filled up a big glass with fresh water, and took it to Eugene. Eugene was very grateful, and said, “Thank you Mr. O’Haley. This water is most welcome.” O’Haley asked, “Eugene, why are you so sad?” Eugene replied, “Because I want to give Marie a very special gift for Christmas, and I have no money. I have searched every where, but can’t find a job to earn some money for a gift”

O’Haley replied, “But, Eugene, don’t you know that a gift you make with your own hands, is a better gift than any you can buy with money? Why don’t you make something special for Marie? Maybe something real special. I’ll bet she’d really like a beautiful stained glass window for her front door! It would make the front door very pretty in the mornings when the sun shines on your house, and she would receive the gift of beauty every morning.”

“But, I don’t know how to make stained glass windows!” replied Eugene. “That’s not a problem, ” said O’Haley. “I can give you the knowledge. But, I want something in return.” Eugene was cautious, because he knew leprechauns can play mean tricks.

“What is it you want in return for this knowledge, you mischievous old leprechaun?” asked Eugene. O’Haley laughed, “Don’t worry, Eugene, my days of playing tricks are pretty much over. I’ll make a trade. I will give you the stained glass knowledge, if you give me your secret recipe for shamrock muffins.”

Everyone knew that Eugene’s shamrock muffins were the best in the land, and he had kept his recipe secret for years. But, now, Eugene quickly wrote down the ingredients and gladly gave the recipe to the old leprechaun. O’Haley jumped up and down with joy, laughing loudly, and began to disappear in a puff of smoke.

“What about my knowledge!?” shouted Eugene. “Here it is,” replied O’Haley, throwing a pinch of magic dust on Eugene. “This looks a lot like Magic Reindeer Food,” Eugene thought to himself. As O’Haley disappeared into his puff of smoke, Eugene thought he heard very faintly, “Hee hee! Don’t get cut on the glass! Hee hee, haw haw haw!”

All of a sudden Eugene realized that he knew how to make stained glass windows. The perfect design for Marie’s favorite purple flower made of colored glass popped into his head; it would be beautiful in the front door! And, Marie would be able to see it every day. This would be a really special gift!

So, Eugene took the few coins he had in his pocket, and went to the colored glass store, and bought pieces of pretty colored glass to make Marie’s favorite purple flower. The colored glass was very expensive, and Eugene only had two coins left when he left the store. “But”, he thought to himself, “Marie will be so happy with the new front door glass, I would have gladly spent ALL my coins to make just what she would like.”

When he got home, he tried to remove the old faded glass in the front door to make a pattern for the new colored front door glass with the purple flower. As Eugene gently lifted the old glass, he heard a loud “snap!” and saw a crack in the glass go all the way from one side of the window to the other! This was terrible! How would he ever explain to Marie how the glass got broken, without ruining his surprise?

Eugene thought and thought. He knew he would have to make another new window glass for the door! But, he didn’t want to give away his secret surprise, because he didn’t want to ruin Marie’s Christmas. Besides, making a new window would take several days. And, you have to be really careful not to get cut. Eugene decided to leave the old cracked glass in the door, and hope that Marie wouldn’t notice it right away.

Then he hurried back to the colored glass store, to buy more glass, to make a new window for the front door. “How much glass can I buy with just these two coins?” Eugene asked.

“Only this old white glass,” the shopkeeper told him.

Eugene looked at the glass. “Well, it isn’t very pretty,” he thought to himself, “But, maybe I can make a window that will be nice enough for now, and then I can replace it with the beautiful purple flower glass on Christmas Eve night. Then Marie will really be surprised!

Eugene worked and worked, through the evening, and all night, trying to make a pretty window design out of the old white glass. He was hoping to have the white glass window ready to put in before Marie found the broken glass in her front door. But, before he could finish, he heard Marie shriek, “Oh me! Oh my goodness! The front door glass is broken! Come quickly Eugene!”

Eugene was worried. He didn’t want Marie to know about the secret front door glass with a purple flower design he was making for her. But, he didn’t have the window of old white glass ready, either. Oh, my! What a terrible fix!

Eugene said, “What’s wrong Marie?”

Marie pointed to the front door glass and said, “It’s cracked all the way across! It’s such a big glass, I’m afraid it will fall out and hurt someone. We need a new window right away!”

Eugene didn’t like telling fibs to Marie, but he knew that he would give away his secret surprise if he didn’t answer carefully. “I’ll go see O’Haley,” he said. “Surely he still has a trick or two up his sleeve. Maybe he can fix the glass” So, Eugene went carefully out the door, and headed to O’Haley’s house, where he found the old leprechaun stirring up some frosting to put on the shamrock muffins he had just made from Eugene’s recipe.

“O’Haley,” Eugene began, “I need another favor from you, but I have nothing left to trade.” “Sure, me boy!,” the old leprechaun smiled, “And, this time it won’t cost you anything! The shamrock muffins are truly delicious! They will make a wonderful gift for my grandchildren. I’m making some for all of them! What is it you want?”

“Well,” Eugene started, “I need for you to help me keep a secret from Marie.” He then went on to explain the broken front door glass, and his plan for the two glass windows he was making; one to replace the broken glass until Christmas, and the secret front door glass with a purple flower. O’Haley agreed to help keep the secret, and chuckled, “This is as good as some of the old tricks I used to play as a young leprechaun! It’ll be fun!”

Eugene returned home and told Marie that O’Haley said he would help out with repairing the broken front door glass. It would, however, be a day or two before the repair could be made. “Oh, dear me!,” Marie said. “Well, I guess that will have to do. I will have to tell everyone not to come for a visit. That way no one will get hurt by falling glass.” She picked up the welcome mat, from outside the front door, and hurried it off to the storage room.

Eugene rushed to his workshop and worked all the rest of that day, and through the night, to finish making the front door window made of the old white glass. Later that day, after Marie left to go to market, Eugene took the old, cracked, door glass out of the front door, and carefully threw it away, so it wouldn’t cut anyone. Then he installed the new window, made of old white glass, just as Marie returned.

Marie liked the new front door glass, and was once again looking forward to having visitors. She cheerfully hurried off to the storage room, gathered up the welcome mat, and placed it cheerfully just outside the front door.

Eugene then went back to his workshop, and worked and worked on the beautiful stained glass window with the purple flower in the middle. When it was all completed, he held it up to the light, and was amazed at its beauty. “This is beautiful,” he thought to himself. “Marie is going to be very pleased!” He then carefully wrapped it in a blanket, and took it to O’Haley’s house, where they hid it until Christmas night.

Late that night, after Santa Claus had visited all the elf’s homes, filling stockings and placing gifts under the trees, Eugene went to O’Haley’s house and got the stained glass window wrapped in a blanket, and took it home. He quietly installed it in the front door, and tiptoed off to bed, with a big, happy grin on his face. “Marie will be very pleased,” he smiled to himself.

On Christmas morning, Eugene found a gift for himself under the tree; a big, fuzzy, warm, scarf to protect him from the cold wind. But, there was no gift for Marie under the tree! She pretended that she really didn’t care, and told Eugene how handsome he looked in his new fuzzy scarf. Eugene said, “Oh, my! Look up there high in the tree!” There was a little white envelope just barely peeking out of the boughs near the top of the tree. Eugene said, “I wonder who this could be for,” reaching up to rescue it. Eugene handed the card to Marie, and said, “Merry Christmas, Marie. I love you very much.” Marie said, “Thank you, honey. I love you, too.” She then opened the card, and read it aloud. “To Marie: here is a gift to bring you joy every day the year; your favorite purple flower, in the front door glass. Love, Eugene.”

Marie was just getting ready to ask what it meant, when the sun rose above the trees, and sent a brilliant ray of light through the front door glass, which made a faint purple flower on the floor in front of Marie. She was very surprised, and looked toward the front door, where she could see the new front door glass all lit up in the sunlight. It was brilliantly aglow with dazzling colors, pretty patterns, and her favorite purple flower right in the middle!

Marie couldn’t have been happier, and said to Eugene, “This is the best present I’ve ever gotten!” Now I can see my favorite flower every day, even in the winter!” Eugene smiled, very grateful that he had been willing to give up something that was special to him, that secret recipe, to be able to give something very special to Marie.

And, in the glow of that favorite purple flower made of colored glass, they lived happily ever after,

The End

What a special romance we have shared throughout our years! Praise God!