Christmas presence not presents

18 December 2019

MS blogger Martin Baum was diagnosed with MS nearly forty years ago. Here he reflects on the impact his diagnosis has had on the festive period over the years.

Although it would be easy for me to hang all my trials and tribulations on having MS, in truth that couldn’t be further from reality. It’s too easy and convenient to negate personal responsibility, which has dawned on me during the writing of this blog.  Inadvertently, facing up to the truth has allowed me to explore my own attitude to the yuletide trinity of Christmas past, present and future.

It’s the theme of many a Christmas movie where the protagonist is Scrooge.  This was a man so mean of spirit and goodwill that, whilst putting this article together for the MS Trust, it has made me reflect on the person I became after I was diagnosed with MS nearly forty years ago. 

Understandably, I was angry.  But I was also pitiful and self-indulgent, allowing myself to stop believing in my family and pushing everyone away.  With resentment growing, I believed no-one could empathise or understand how I was feeling. It got to the stage where I took myself away from the family and so began a long separation which, of course, included Christmas.

Everyone tried to entice me back into the fold but naturally I knew better.  Instead of allowing them in I chose to isolate myself from my family which just festered and evolved into something where I would no longer include myself.  There were so many Christmases where my self-imposed isolation affected everyone, most of all my parents, who would have unconditionally welcomed me back with open arms, but I wouldn’t give in. 

That was my Christmas past, which now makes me feel so ashamed of the way I treated my family. 

But as the years have passed and we’ve all grown older, love and attitudes have both grown and softened in equal measure.  Through a series of MS-related circumstances my brother and sister have allowed bridges to be built on what remained of the burned-out ones, putting the past behind us and allowing a more settled present to evolve.

More recently, as a result of worsening MS symptoms, I conceded it was more sensible to move my wife and son a hundred miles from the Dorset coast, back home to London to be near both of our families.  To my great surprise, after twenty one years away, London is still home – and finally we’re going to be doing the one thing my parents would have given anything for when they were they still here;  celebrating a family Christmas together.

That is my Christmas present, which my brother and sister’s forgiveness has made possible, meaning I now have a Christmas future I believe in.  While Christmas can be all things to all men what it means to me is this;  at last I have a Christmas present far better than the kind that could ever be bought on Amazon.