If the Christmas season brings out exaggerated feelings of joy or depression, depending on where you're at to begin with, then you might think Gloria Nickerson would really be in the dumps these days.
Her husband was killed in a traffic accident in 1979 and their only son--who was born two months premature and weighed less than 4 pounds--has cerebral palsy.
Matthew, who is now 9, is a quadriplegic, legally blind, has virtually no control over his muscles, can barely speak intelligibly, has severe epileptic seizures, underwent hip surgery, battled pneumonia for a year, and goes in and out of comas.
Gloria gets by on monthly $908 Social Security checks. She doesn't work because Matthew demands her total, round-the-clock attention. She feeds him, clothes him, entertains him, plays with him, bathes him, toilets him, takes him for strolls and runs him to Children's Hospital when something is really wrong.
So, you say, this isn't a very cheery Christmas story . . . can we just skip ahead to the next item?
But it seems that the Nickersons, mom and son, have the Christmas cheer.
"I'm not looking for sympathy. I just want people to understand Matthew for who he is--a person, my son," said Nickerson, 33, who moved from Florida to Ramona in June.
She said that, through a deep-seated belief in God, she has learned not only to cope with Matthew's handicap but to thrive by it. "Matthew has taught me a lot. I never had patience until I had Matthew. He taught me that.
"And he has taught me acceptance, to go with the flow. I take each day as it comes. I don't worry about what happened yesterday or what's going to happen tomorrow.
"Matthew could be a genius, but he's all locked up because his muscles don't work. But when he smiles, his whole face lights up. He's got personality. Matthew is a special child, so I figure I must be a pretty special person for God to have given him to me.
"Once I was feeling down, when Matthew was in the hospital with pneumonia. Then I met a widow who had six children and one of them had leukemia.
"So, you see, I'm pretty joyful this Christmas to have Matthew be alive. He's my greatest joy. He's my Christmas present."
How About Mr. Clean?
If you think your bathtub ring is bad after the kids are sudsed and scrubbed, imagine how bad the City of San Diego's wastewater tanks look.
And if you don't want to imagine it, just consider this: the City Council on Monday hired Triad Marine and Industrial Cleaning Corp. to remove and dispose of wet scum for a year, at a cost of $28,000.
Your tax dollars at work.
Take Note, Scrooge
Speaking of taxes, your Christmas tree can be a tax write-off if you buy a living tree in a container and, after the holiday, donate it to the Ramona-Julian Resource Conservation District.
With the help of the California Conservation Corps, the resource people will plant your tree in the backcountry to spruce things up, as it were.
Consider it your Christmas gift to nature.
As the Crow Flies
In our Travel Dept., we bring you these related items:
- San Diego State University wanted to get a publicity photograph delivered before a 6 p.m. deadline to The Times' San Diego County Edition office at 7th and B in downtown San Diego. So, for efficiency's sake, a courier was hired to whisk it right over without delay.
Several hours later, the courier called in distress. He had been driving up and down 7th and couldn't find the address. No wonder. He was cruising 7th Street in Los Angeles.
- And if you think the picture got a little wayward, consider aspiring travel writer Janis McKittrick's attempt to subscribe to Tahiti Magazine. She sent her check to a post office box in Tahiti back in October.
The other day, the North Park woman got a return letter. "Dearest Jan," it began, "First of all, I would like to greet you a warm 'hello' and may you are in the best of everything."
The writer, Bonnie Maligalig, explained that the letter somehow got delivered to the wrong address and ended up in her hands.
She's a Filipino contract worker in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia.
Living Up to Title
Minor accident last week at the brand new UA Horton Plaza 7 theaters. A construction worker knocked loose the ticket office reader board that lists the various movies and their show times.
The board crashed through the ticket office window and caused a bit of a mess. Nobody hurt, but close call.
One of the movies: "Jagged Edge."