Normally I love Christmas. I love the decorating, the scheming to create the perfect gift for someone else. I love the lights and outdoor decorations that we don't see much of in this neighborhood. I love the sharing, opening my home, visiting friends. The Advent wreath, marking those four Sundays before Christmas, reminding us of promise, prophesy, anticipation, love, candles bringing more and more light even as the days shorten and the winter solstice nears. Baking, and baking more. Hauling out the fine china, polishing the silver, just the right candles on the table and around the house. Ray was known to bring home the on duty Sheriff or Highway Patrolman for Christmas Dinner. It was always a trauma for me to give up the cooking and trundle off to Kimo's house to celebrate Christmas with his family.
It not the same in someone else's house. There are 95-year-old short tempers to consider, others with their own traditions of celebrating -- or ignoring -- the holidays. My "props" -- the seasonal decorations -- are all 3000 miles away. Even if they were within reach, there would not be room for them here.
December 23rd was my parents' 70th wedding anniversary. It was also the annual Christmas Party at Oahu Care Facility. Mother and I made the trek to share the morning with my dad. We arrived about 10 minutes before the celebration was to begin. He was still in bed, asleep. He did not WANT to get up. He "didn't feel good" (a frequently used excuse). He didn't recognize my mother enough to call her by name. But with a little prompting he did remember that it was their wedding anniversary.
Christmas Day. I went alone to Oahu Care. Daddy was awake, and was thrilled with the album I had put together for him from some old photographs my brother Ian has been scanning. All of them have come from my dad's old albums. He nearly snatched the book out of my hands, he was so excited to look at what was in it. He didn't remember that he'd seen all those pictures recently. They are now in a book, and that makes them special and new. The fish t-shirt -- he liked the fish, but it was just another shirt, and doesn't have a pocket. The non-slip socks pleased him. But photos in an album thrilled him. When I admitted that my brain was in "forget" mode, and I'd forgotten to bring the Christmas cards and gingerbread that were set aside for him, he was alert enough to quip, "Welcome to the club!"
In the end, I survived Christmas. It was far from a perfect holiday, but it was not a disaster either. Although they are not gardeners, Ian and Meda seemed intrigued by the herb pot of basil, parsley and thyme I created for them. Mother is slowly working her way through 2 lbs. of See's "soft centers only" chocolate, and was not offended by my favorite throw-it-in-the-pot egg timer I found her after she soft boiled the last batch of "hard boiled" eggs. Church on Christmas morning, rather than our customary Christmas Eve, helped keep the focus where it belongs.
Reach out today to someone who is alone. Look for someone alone in a crowd. A smile, an acknowledgement of their existence, is a start. Don't forget to pray.