‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays 2016 With Heidi Schulz

‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Heidi Schulz

New York Times Bestselling author and self-proclaimed giraffe suspicioner, Heidi Schulz, lives in Salem, Oregon with her husband, their teen daughter, a terrible little dog, and several dozen dust bunnies. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, Hook’s Revenge, published by Disney•Hyperion, is a New York Times Bestseller, a Bank Street Best book, among the New York Public Library’s Top 100 Titles for Children in 2014, and an OCTE Oregon Spirit Honor Book. A sequel, Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code, was published in 2015. Bloomsbury Kids published her picture book debut, Giraffes Ruin Everything, in August 2016. Heidi lies to children for fun and profit.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

New Year’s Eve is filled with sweet possibility. That’s what I was going to tell you last year, when, just like today, I was on the ‘Tis The Season schedule for December 31.

New Year’s is a prefect time for remembering. I would have told you that too.

I had begun a draft that included my most memorable New Year’s Eves — nights bursting with promises of wonderful things to come. Like 1994, when I took two tie-died hippy dudes to a cowboy party and ended up kissing a roper under a rare clear and starry Oregon winter sky. And 1996, when my brand new husband (not the roper) and I rang in the New Year, and the start of our life together, by the light of our first Christmas tree. And 2006, when my little family had a New York New Year’s party and we let our five-year-old daughter stay up to watch, live online, as the ball dropped in Time Square — at the late, late hour of 9:00 pm on the West Coast.

I hadn’t planned to talk to you about the coin flip to all that possibility: the taste of goodbye, bittersweet on the tongue. Somehow in all my remembering, I had forgotten about that. But…

Ring out the old.

Ring in the new.

New Year’s Eve is a time for goodbye.

It doesn’t matter what I planned though, does it? Because I never said it. Instead, on December 27, I sent a message to Jen — something along the lines of, “I’m sorry I haven’t sent you my post. My dad is dying. I’m on my way to say a last goodbye.”

In mid-November last year, my dad was hospitalized with congestive heart failure. I made a trip to see him the next week, but I had a terrible cold. I chose to wear a facemask and keep my distance to avoid sharing my germs and complicating his illness. When it was time for me to go home, I crossed the room and gave him a brief hug and a kiss on the forehead through my paper mask. I didn’t know if I would see him again. As goodbyes go, it was pretty terrible. I didn’t cry as my husband drove us the four-hour trip home. I felt numb.

The next week, my dad’s condition improved. He checked out of the hospital and went home. He spent a couple weeks there, his beloved dog on his lap, watching the weather change outside his window, but the reprieve would not last. Before long, his symptoms stopped responding to medication and he returned to the hospital.

I kept asking my mom, “Should I come?” and she kept replying, “I don’t think so. Not yet.”

But when option after option became exhausted, and his condition steadily worsened, we began to accept that time was winding down. I was at church on the Sunday after Christmas when my brother texted to give me the latest update. I moved to the hallway and called my mom.

“Should I come?”

“Yes. I think you should.”

I was on the train three hours later.

My dad looked so small in his hospital bed, but he still shamelessly joked and flirted with the nurses. He fully understood when the doctor told us, “We can keep him alive longer here in the hospital, or we can send set him up with hospice care at home and keep him comfortable for the time he has left, perhaps a week or so.”

“I want to go home,” my dad said.

So we made that happen.

I took charge, giving my siblings a break from the emotional toll of decision making. I helped my mom select a hospice provider, and arranged for a home delivery of a hospital bed and oxygen machine. I called and let my other, farther away, siblings know that time was short. They began making travel arrangements.

I was at my parents’ house when the medical transport company brought Dad home. We got him settled, and I poured him a glass of his favorite beverage — Mountain Dew — holding the cup so he could sip from the straw. He relaxed for the first time in weeks, happy to be home.

Dad slept a lot over the next couple days, but when he was awake, we had time to talk. We didn’t say anything of great importance — we didn’t need to, those things had already been said — but we talked about dogs and pie and whether it would snow again.

Those few days were precious, but at the same time, watching someone you love die is excruciating. I thought I could stay by his side until the end, but when the inevitable stared me in the face, I flinched. I couldn’t do it.

So, when my other siblings started to arrive, and I was sure both my parents had the love and support they needed, I bought a train ticket to go home.

My sister offered to have me sleep over at her house, some distance away, the night before my departure so she could easily take me to the station in the morning. When she came to pick me up, my dad was in a deep, medicated sleep. I kissed his forehead and said a quiet farewell.

As goodbyes go, it was pretty unsatisfying. Still, I was grateful for it. I went to my sister’s and lay awake most of the night, wishing for more time. That was December 30.

Which brings me to my most memorable New Years Eve — 2015.

Here is what I want to tell you:

New Year’s Eve is a time for remembering.

New Year’s Eve is a time for possibility and change and hope and love.

New Year’s Eve is a time for goodbyes.

My sister drove me to the train station that morning. She parked and turned off the car, ignoring my arguments that I travel alone all the time and didn’t need her to come in and wait with me.

I’m glad she didn’t listen.

At the ticket window I discovered that my train was two hours delayed. There was enough time for my sister to drive me back to my parents’ — time for me to see my dad one last time. We stopped at the grocery store and I bought him a strawberry-rhubarb pie.

He was awake when I walked in the house. We talked a bit about little things. I fed him some of the best kind of pie.

When it was time to go, I said, “I love you, Dad. I don’t know when I’ll see you again, but I look forward to that day. I’ll miss you.” We hugged, one last time, his arms weak, but full of love. I cried on the train, silent tears tracking the miles that took me further away.

The next day, my dad, aided by the morphine that kept his pain at bay, slipped into a light coma. He died on January 8.

Our time together on December 31, 2015 was a gift. As goodbyes go, that one broke my heart, but it was pretty great.

I’ll never forget it.

New Year’s is about the precious gift of time.

And that’s what I wanted to tell you.

Title Giraffes Ruin Everything
Author Heidi Schulz
Pages 40 Pages
Intended Target Audience Preschool/Kindergarten (3 – 6)
Genre & Keywords Picture Book, Humour
To Be Published August 16th, 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

An incomplete list of things giraffes ruin:
● Birthday parties
● Going to the movies
● Playing at the park
● Hide and Seek
● Everything else

But when our narrator finds himself in a ruinous situation, perhaps he’ll find giraffes aren’t so bad after all.

2 responses to “‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays 2016 With Heidi Schulz”

  1. Dear Heidi, thank you for such a beautiful post. My heart goes out to you. I too had to say goodbye on January 15 2015 to my mom. She also was on hospice a short time. Wishing you a 2017 filled with more “hello’s than goodbye’s”.
    Kathleen Burkinshaw recently posted…Light the Lights and Ring the BellsMy Profile

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