A Christmas Not Taken for Granted

Caitlyn Witte

Christmas Day of the year 2006, was approaching, and the excitement that always lingers prior to December 25, was surging through my every vein. We had already picked out a towering Christmas tree that filled the house with that pine tree scent commonly associated with the holiday. In my ideal world, I would wake up to the gifts neatly surrounding the base of the elaborately ornamented branches above them. My entire family would then gather around, taking turns demolishing the wrapping paper and revealing the long-awaited gifts that came to cause that special gleam of happiness in the eyes of all four of my brothers as well as my parents and myself. After all, this was how it had always taken place in past years. However, this year would come to be one I would never forget.

Right before Christmas break come the much-dreaded first semester finals. On the bright side of the spectrum, though, completion of these finals only means reaching that prized winter vacation. This time of re-gathering all of the knowledge thrown at us during the entire first eighteen weeks of school is one of stress, tears, and migraines. So, when my fourteen year old younger brother began complaining of severe migraines about mid-December, my parents and I thought nothing of it except for the typical "final stress" headache. Parker, on the other hand, begged to differ. Due to his persistence, my mother eventually scheduled an appointment for a CAT scan when three Excedrin Migraine pills weren't doing the trick. The day of the CAT scan, I was at home, sleeping in, while my mom went through just about the most horrifying moment of her life. While the CAT scan was being read, the worst words a mother could hear came from the doctor's mouth as he peered around the edge of the door of the reading room. He strode towards the area where my mother was standing as if he were on a grave mission. Her fists clenched until her knuckles were white, as his footsteps echoed down the seemingly endless hallway, every step closer dragging my mother into a deeper level of fear. "Mom, could we talk to you for a second?" Her heart dropped with every word infected by the doctor's worried voice. The next words came as her heart hit the floor. "We found a mass in your son's brain." No one could truly imagine how she felt at this moment.  

I finally awoke from my slumber, oblivious to the events taking place in the medical center downtown. I called my mom to rid me of my boredom, hoping she could retrieve me and allow me some separation from the house I had been trapped in all morning. The ringing on the other end silenced and one somber "hello" was all I heard. "What's wrong?" I inquired. "Nothing," she replied, "they just need to do some more tests to figure out as to why he's having headaches." I knew this wasn't the case, however, as she almost nearly burst into tears right there on the phone. If she wouldn't tell me what was wrong, I knew my dad would. I called him on his cell phone, and all he told me was that he was heading to Texas Children's at that moment, where Parker had gotten his CAT scan. I begged to go with him, and he eventually agreed. The moment I stepped foot into his large Chevy truck, I could tell something was seriously wrong. All of the sudden, my dad burst into tears. Now, one must understand that in all of my sixteen years, at this point, I had never, in my entire life, seen  

my father cry. He eventually was able to choke out the words, "Parker has a brain tumor." I stared blankly out the window at the passing trees, not even able to cry at first. The shock had taken away my ability to comprise any emotion. Then, all at once, my emotions returned as tears began streaming down my face as I kept my eyes concentrated on my outside surroundings, hoping they would engulf me and remove me from my current situation. In spite of what I hoped and prayed for, I knew this was reality, and what I had just heard, I would have to accept.  

My dad and I finally arrived at Texas Children's Hospital where we raced down a long, sterile hallway to an end room where we found Parker, lounging in the hospital bed, watching his favorite TV show. His large, goofy feet nearly hung over the edge of the slightly under-sized children's bed, as his awkward, lanky body was growing by the day. The minute we walked in, my thoughts began piling up only to be shortly interrupted by a knock on the door. The man introduced himself as Dr. Dauser, the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Texas Children's Hospital. He then brought my mother, my father, and me into a room with a large computer displaying an image of my brother's brain. On the right side of his brain was a large, orange-sized mass pushing over and curving the center-line of his brain into the left hemisphere.  

xmas2My jaw nearly dropped. This mass could be the thing that ends up taking my brother from me. We re-entered the room where Parker remained lying, acting as brave as ever, with more composure than I would ever be able to retain. A million thoughts were racing through my head. The surgery the following morning could go wrong; the tumor could be malignant; I could potentially not see him in the morning; I could never help him out on his first date, or pick out his clothes on his first day of high school. I looked at him as if I had never seen him before. I noticed every facial feature, every mannerism; every personality trait flooded the air about him. I then realized, that all of this, all I had taken for granted for the fourteen years I had known him, could be gone at any second. If I were noticing all of these things about him in the five minutes I had been contemplating, I could only imagine what I was supposed to notice after fourteen years. How- ever, I always thought he would be there for me. I never took the time to notice these things, because I never had the fear of them being taken away from me. Of all the things I took for granted, I took my closest sibling, my younger brother, for granted the most.  

The next few days, including the surgery and the recovery, were all a blur. Friends and family were extremely supportive, as even my friends came to visit my little brother in the hospital, bringing him his favorite foods and magazines and anything else they could dream of to make him feel more comfortable. Dr. Dauser was even able to release Parker from the hospital Christmas morning. As many pain-killers as he was on, and in spite of the incision running across his entire, now bald, head, Parker maintained a smile on his face and that gleam in his eye that he had every Christmas morning since remember. I never thought I can I would learn such an important lesson from my younger brother, but as much as I would like to deny it, that little boy taught me one of the most imperative things in life. Never again will I take the simple aspects of life for granted, for we never know when they may be gone.  

Written by Caitlyn Witte, Community Representative for the Childhood Brain Tumor Foundation

Caitlyn and her family have been strong supporters of Lauren Lockard's Run with the Saints for over 10 years., an event that is held in memory of a little girl who lost her battle to a brain tumor. The event benefits John Paul II in Houston and the Childhood Brain Tumor Foundation. 

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