A Charlie Brown Christmas

Dec 20, 2015 by

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Funny, the way life turns out. Or perhaps God has a weird sense of humor. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about how I was ‘waiting‘ for Christmas. That for some odd reason, things felt different this year. That I didn’t feel like rushing, or doing much of anything. I mentioned how I no longer bake, that I quit sending Christmas cards years ago, and hadn’t yet bought any Christmas presents.

And I also said that, while I knew there was a Christmas tree somewhere out there for us, it would probably be of the Charlie Brown® variety by the time we bought it.

Steve Paterka in hospitalThat blog was posted about 8 am on Thursday, December 3rd. Meanwhile, that exact same day, after a morning spent volunteering around town, having lunch with friends, and feeling just fine, my husband Steve suddenly wasn’t feeling fine. In fact, he was feeling downright sick. ‘Sick’ as in, by 4 pm, we were in the hospital’s ER, and Steve was being seen by a doctor. I couldn’t understand how a man could feel great all day, then suddenly have a 104.5 temperature. It didn’t make sense. The blood work showed an infection. With such a high temp, Steve spent the night in a hospital bed.

By 6:30 am the next day, the report wasn’t good. A severe strep infection had somehow entered his blood. Steve’s leg was swollen and extremely inflamed. Steve was one very sick man, and the doctors told him he wouldn’t be leaving the hospital anytime soon. He’s been prone to infections since 2004, when a staph infection left his immune system compromised. Steve spent the next 7 days in the hospital on very strong IV antibiotics before the fever finally broke and he was able to come home to me.

But he didn’t come home alone. Steve had a new friend. The day before he left the hospital, doctors surgically inserted a pick-line near the top of Steve’s left arm, leading directly to his heart. Steve needed to be on IV antibiotics for at least the next 10 days. He’s been home since Dec. 10th. A home health care nurse has visited every other day to check his leg, tend the dressing on his pick-line, and make sure the IV bags are properly changed. Steve’s been on doctor’s orders to keep the leg elevated as much as possible.

Steve Paterka at home in chairBed to chair. Chair to bed. Back and forth. Not much else. For a man who’s used to being out and about, it’s been a difficult 10 days. For a woman who’s used to her ‘most-positive-person-I’ve-ever-met-in-my-life‘ husband, it’s been difficult too. Steve is a real people person, and not being able to move about freely has left him frustrated and depressed. As I write this, Steve is on his last day of IV antibiotics. Another visit to the doctor tomorrow, and we’re hoping for good news. Such as: “No more infection; we’re removing the pick-line.”

That would be the best Christmas present ever.

Meanwhile, back to our Charlie Brown Christmas tree. I was booked at a local Christmas craft show event on Saturday, Dec. 5th., which Steve (still in the hospital, still running a high temp) insisted I keep. While at the show, I came across a man selling little Christmas trees that looked nearly identical to Charlie Brown’s own. With the blog post of two days earlier still fresh in mind, I bought one of his little trees for the bargain price of only $2. Later that day, when I visited Steve in the hospital, I told him about it, and we had a good laugh. “Wouldn’t it be funny,” I said, “if that ends up being our Christmas tree?”

Guess what?Santa Birthday Gift from long ago

It has.

This year, we’ve ditched the idea of attempting to have any kind of ‘normal’ Christmas. Ditto for the live 6 ft. Douglas Fir which normally would have had a place of honor in our living room. No time. No energy. I finally did haul out the Christmas decorations, and selected a precious few. This little Santa Claus dates back to December of 1961, a birthday present from a school chum at my one-and-only-birthday party-ever.

And our little Charlie Brown tree? I’ve been watering it every day, and it’s even grown roots! For awhile it had a place of honor next to a snow globe Santa Claus. But once the other Christmas decorations went up, I decided that the Charlie Brown tree needed to be at the heart of Christmas. I moved him next to the Holy Family figurine made of olive wood from the Holy Land, and a little porcelain church. On Christmas Eve night, we’ll light a candle inside the church, reflecting the light of Christ coming into our world… and our hearts.

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree with Holy Family and church

I love our little Charlie Brown Christmas tree, and I wouldn’t trade it for the prettiest Douglas Fir ever. Not now. Not with all the sentiment behind it.

It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas at the Paterka house. What exactly does that mean?

Perhaps Charlie Brown’s friend Linus said it best:

And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.’ That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Amen, Linus!

To all of you, from Steve and me, a very Merry Christmas!


  1. Deb

    A Merry Christmas to you and Steve as well! Praying that he gets a good report from the doctor tomorrow!

    • Kathleen Irene Paterka

      Deb, the prayers for Steve are much appreciated. And a Merry Christmas to you and your family, too! ~ Kathleen

  2. Martha Reynolds

    Lovely and touching post, Kathleen. Wishing good health and blessings for you and Steve.

    • Kathleen Irene Paterka

      Thank you, Martha. All I want for Christmas is Steve healthy and happy. That would be the best Christmas present of all. Merry Christmas to you and yours! ~ Kathleen

  3. Wonderful post, Kathleen! So heartfelt and a great reminder of our true gifts. My best to you and Steve, and Merry Christmas!

    • Kathleen Irene Paterka

      Krista, so glad you liked the Charlie Brown post. I’m about to take Steve to his doctor’s appt. Fingers crossed for the best news ever: no more infection, no more pick-line, no more ‘illness’… on the road to recovery! Merry Christmas to you and yours, and a very Happy New Year! ~ Kathleen

  4. Cyndi U

    Merry Christmas Kathy! I hope you and Steve have a wonderful holiday season. Your Charlie Brown tree is fabulous. Enjoy each other. God’s blessings to you and your family. love Cyndi

    • Kathleen Irene Paterka

      Cyndi, our Charlie Brown tree is thriving; I think my mom is smiling down on it from heaven (just as she did with her Christmas cactus). Merry Christmas to you and yours, too! ~ Kathleen

  5. Marsha mcCann

    I had no idea Steve was sick. I take it you had to miss your Vegas trip. I’m so sorry. Please give Steve our best. We will keep him in our prayers. Keep me posted on his progress.

    • Kathleen Irene Paterka

      Marsha, thank you so much for the beautiful Christmas card (received it a day or so ago). Yes, we had to ‘postpone’ my ‘Vegas birthday trip’ because of his illness. But life is good. I’m retiring from Castle on Dec. 31st, and will no longer be tied to a ‘9-5’ schedule, or dates that we can’t travel. So we’ll fly out and do a ‘belated birthday celebration’ once his leg is better. It will be a long recovery. Meanwhile, thank you so much for your prayers. Merry Christmas to you and Jeff! xxoo ~ Kathleen