It’s the wee hours. In Christmases past we would have already been up for a while. There would be noise, unwrapping, and kids everywhere trying out all the gifts and, by now, a Christmas morning breakfast in the works. Today, I sit in the shimmer of my Christmas tree in silence. There is snow on the ground outside. I pray for stamina for all my friends with little ones at home. Christmas and a snow day all rolled into one will be crazy fun, but exhausting. My house is empty of children. The dogs are snoring nearby. I am warm under my blanket just sitting with the quiet. It’s just the way I like it in the early morning hours.
I do miss the early years of Christmas Eve sleeplessness and Christmas morning activity. One day maybe grandchildren will revive the crazy Christmas morning routines. For now, I am learning to be content and take one year at a time. There are lots of folks missing from around the table this year. What was to be one of those everybody-is-home years, has turned into a nobody-can-come year. I expressed my frustration with the pandemic by not decorating anything but the tree. No need to haul all the boxes down from the attic if there is no one to help decorate or to enjoy the decorations. No dinner to make. No parties to arrange. Just quiet reflection, and that is not a bad thing. A contemplative Christmas seems appropriate in 2020.
I think of Mom. She makes me smile. Her childlike countenance is a blessing. She is slipping backwards in years, but doing so in a joyous fashion. She tries to talk and is quite animated these days. Sometimes she can string sentences together that make some sense and other times it is gibberish. Those two kinds of communication come back to back, so that you never know what she understands and what she doesn’t. Her Santa hat covers her long hair that hasn’t been cut since the pandemic started. Melinda did her nails on our last visit, but she was already fidgeting with them, so we don’t think they will last. Fidgeting with her hands is one of her favorite things to do. She has fidget blankets, but she prefers to peel her fingernails. haha
Her other obsession is dogs. She loves them but she can’t see Oreo except when Dad brings her for visits, occasionally. I got her a stuffed dog for Christmas which can be heated in the microwave and used as a warmer. (Mom is always cold.) We named it Butch after her childhood pet dog, hoping that she might remember the name though it is not likely. We are aware that she doesn’t know who we are because she asks us, but we don’t mind because she is happy to see us every time we go. I do miss her so. There are times I need to talk to her. There are times we all do.
Dad is doing well since her move to memory care. He can go in and be a husband rather than a caregiver. It has taken the burden of the day to day care away and allowed him to not be quite as exhausted physically. Emotionally, the separation is heartbreaking. The pandemic has limited how often he can go see her, and that is rough. Yet, he is trying to do some things on his own. Some of the grandkids have become photography buddies and they are soaking in his instruction and taking him for picture taking sessions in the mountains. He is letting them distract him. It is a good thing.
My brother is missing this year for reasons of his own. His wellbeing is on all our hearts and we pray for the day he will return to the table. Ray is missing also, as it is our first Christmas since he passed in June. It seems odd not to be picking him up to come here for Christmas. Every time I pass the place he lived (which is every day on my way to work) I think of him. Two of my own children are missing as well because of distance and travel restrictions. We will zoom later, but it isn’t the same as an embrace in person. After a lunch at my sister’s house today, I will come home and the other three kids will be here for the evening. To have some of them around is like water to my thirsty soul. I am glad they are close enough to stop by and spend some time with us.
All of these empty seats are par for the course in 2020. I know I am not the only one with vacant spots at the table. And though it all sounds a bit melancholy, there is still joy. Hard times do not steal joy, they spotlight it. We have all been through so much this year that we are kind of shell shocked by the changes. Yet, the white blanket outside my door reminds me that underneath, growth is happening. On top, there appears to be no life, but deep in the ground the roots are getting stronger. The soil is getting nourishment…because spring is coming. This outrageous time we are living through is only a season…one that seems to be taking forever…but still in overall scheme of things, it will eventually seem a short time.
So as I reflect on Christmas, and sit in the quiet, I remember what the angels said on the silent night long ago, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests.” I am one of those on whom his favor rests, and so, I will treasure these things in my heart and await the promised peace in the world. While I am waiting, I will sit with joy on this white Christmas morning. Merry Christmas!