Thursday, December 06, 2007

Thoughts In a Cold Winter Morning

It's cold here this morning. I woke to a purple-pink tinge on the horizon, a sunny day in the offing. The floors were chilly as I padded to the kitchen in my bare feet to pour myself a cup of the fragrant coffee my husband had thoughtfully set to brew as he headed off to the prison chapel. I pulled my blue fleecy robe tighter as I took myself and my cup to the rocker in the living room, absently humming the Simon and Garfunkel tune..."It's a winter day, in a deep and dark December...I am alone...". Blanket over my knees, I glanced at the thermometer. Minus 2! Brr.

I rocked, sipped coffee and watched the sun change the monochrome scene outside my window. The picture was my view out the front door as the sun rays tinged the house across the street with a slight yellow glow.

I was feeling melancholy this morning. Advent often brings to mind Charles Dickens's words from A Tale of Two Cities "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." I think many (most?) of us experience a sort of juxtaposition of emotions this season. I love Christmas. I love reading Isaiah's prophecies, lighting candles, pulling out the CDs I only play in December, smelling the fragrance of evergreen boughs, baking, anticipating.
And I was sipping coffee and feeling deeply alone and wondering why. Then I realized that I was doing something I can visualize my sweet sister, Darlaine (now in the late stages of Alzheimer's disease), doing so many times. For years she has owned an old wooden rocker. It sits in her room at the group home now. I have a clear picture of her in the morning, wrapped in an old white, fleecy robe, sipping from a cup (tea, in her case) wrapped in a lovely rose-patterned afghan crocheted for her by our beloved Aunt Robbie, gone many years now. She is reading a book as she rocks, and she occasionally chuckles. My sister has an indescribable chuckle, half throaty, half girlish giggle. She often chuckled as she read, totally immersing herself in the story. If I close my eyes I can see her clearly--reading, sipping, rocking--and I can hear her chuckle and the sound of pages turning.
I thought of my mother, just a mile away in the nursing home, but so much farther away in her mind. She is forgetting my name sometimes. To my greater sorrow, she is forgetting where she is from--being a Texan is woven into the fabric of her being--how can it slip away? And she has forgotten the sweet visit with Trinity, just a few days ago.
Here they both are, two years ago in Washington. Both were already suffering from significant dementia, but both were able to take joy in the sunny day, the forest, the rushing river, the picnic, the family. Now they have forgotten one another. My mother often asks for my father these days. He has been gone for two decades. At a healthy 72, he died from an aneurysm after three days in a coma. It was December 20th, and I recall "Silent Night" playing as hand in hand my other sister, Paulette, and I left the hospital to head for the airport, our grief in stark contrast to the sunny San Diego day.
A wave of melancholy washed over me, and tears fell, and a bit of anger came with them.
Life is fragile.
You know what else? Life changes.
I don't like that much.
This year will be the first that neither of our two children will be here for Christmas. Ken and I are pondering what to do that is completely different on Christmas Day so that we can start making some kind of completely new tradition. I'm working on Sunday's service, and thinking of the years that have passed, each year marked by planning Christmas services. Time is passing at an alarming rate. I recall my father saying, "Life begins at forty!" and the child me thinking he little senile to even say such a foolish thing.
Here I am at 57, wondering what has happened to me! When did my hair get white? When did the skinny me become the rotund version? When did I start aching when I got up in the morning? When did I lose the sense that I had all the time in the world to accomplish whatever I needed to? What happened to Christmas mornings where our sweet little Josh slept on the floor in his sister's room so he'd be sure to wake her up first thing, "Krist, Krist, [his name for her] come on! GET UP! You gotta SEE what is in our stockings!"
I'm off to my office now. Later I'll put up a small Christmas tree. No big tree this year. Ken has a broken foot, is hobbling on crutches and can't haul it up the basement stairs, and I don't want to even try. My knee aches. I have an appointment with an orthopedist later this month. RIDICULOUS!
What happened to the dark-haired California girl who used to sit on the fence and listen to the traffic and wonder where life would take her? Here she is, rocking on a sub-zero morning in rural Wisconsin.
Life happened, that's what happened. Hmmm.You know, that is something to rejoice in, isn't it?
Life happened.
Isaiah 40: 3-8 NKJV
Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;
The glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
The voice said, “Cry out!”
And he said, “What shall I cry?”
“ All flesh is grass,
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”
Life happened.
The kids will be here, sooner or later. I'll enjoy candlelight and carols on Christmas Eve. Ken and I will have a wonderful time at the prison chapel on Christmas. I'm feeling like withering"grass" this morning, but I think I'll take my Messiah CD to church to listen to the wonderful pieces of music taken from Isaiah 40.
The Word of our God stands forever. Thank you, Light-Giving Father, for sending Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word.


Jules said...

Oh Owl, I hope you did take the CD with you, and I hope those beautiful words stirred your soul.


Jeni said...

Good words - "life happens" -and regardless of how difficult the days may be when you remember what once was, what is today, there is always the faith that comes through to keep us moving, knowing the promises given to us by our Lord and the love He has for us through all our struggles. It can at times make it difficult to move forward at times and my heart goes out to you as you walk through this sadness in your heart, remembering how things once were. I think perhaps because generally most of us have many happy memories surrounding the Christmas seasons past and what it is time to prepare again for the celebration of Christ's birth, our mind overwhelms us now and again with those memories. Peace.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE my memories of Josh waking me up Christmas morning. I still miss that and it has been 15 years at least since that happened.
I'm glad Trinity is there to help cheer you up mommy. :-)

LoieJ said...

After all these years we still have some conflicting emotions about where to spend Christmas and making one's own traditions. I figured my married daughter would have her own family Christmas this year, since she now has two kids, but she informed us that she wants to be "home" for Christmas. They are moving to the opposite corner of Wis. from you next week, so I guess they won't have any cozy feelings yet about their home and church. But it is 385 miles to our house! At least she'll be in the neighboring state from me.

Crimson Rambler said...

Thanks, Owl, very very timely and helpful!

Sista Cala said...

Beautiful much to be thankful for. I needed your post today. I too have been a bit melancholy lately. Ahhh, but His Word endures forever. Nothing like His Word to perk me right up. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Exactly!

Anonymous said...


zorra said...

Yes, life changes--faster and faster these days, it seems. Our bodies change. Our reflections certainly change. But hallelujah, God does not change.