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Archive for the ‘Holiday’ Category


christmas 2007

christmas 2007 (Photo credit: paparutzi)

The small condo is loaded to capacity with family members who live scattered down the south-east coast but are now reunited for Christmas.  Their presents are stacked under the tree in an arc that protrudes well into the traffic lane between the living and dining rooms.  There’s no choice but to pass single file around the mound or to step carefully above the lowest packages stacked.  And there is a lot of movement between the two rooms seeing that the food is in one and the TV and seating in the other.

In the crowd are twin babies whose smallest moves transfixes all eyes on them.  There is lots of ahhing and oohing over the infants by relatives who are either meeting them for the first time or have waited weeks for the special occasion.  The family has waited a long time for these babies to be born and they are most definitely the stars of the show.

SantaHatMy husband and I were invited to share the celebration because this family’s patriarch is caregiver to my hospice patient.  I call her my patient because I volunteer my time in her home.  But  I’m not a medical person and she and I have no relationship and have never shared a conversation.  Her brain has been ravaged by Alzheimer’s and her basic functions of breathing, eating and sleeping is what defines her aliveness these days.  She’s confined to a bed and is even blind now.  Nobody knows how much or how little she understands of her world and her family.  She’s been living like this for years, sustained mostly by her husband and through visits by various hospice professionals.  My role is to give her husband time out of the house to do as he pleases.  And we’ve maintained this routine for close to two years.   My relationship is with the husband who, for me, embodies the meaning of “noble” and who ranks close to the top of my “most admired” list of people.

Almost a decade ago his wife received her lethal diagnosis.  He promised to care for her for the rest of her life and never waivers a moment on that pledge even though it renders him housebound  until someone can relieve his vigil for a few precious hours.  He’s lived like this for years and there’s no forecast of how much longer this lifestyle will continue.  He and I visit once a week but the effects of his selflessness lingers with me.

PartyHatChristmasToday he’s decided to have her join the party.  After-all she’s a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother to everyone gathered.  He didn’t like the idea of her languishing in bed while everyone was carrying on.  So into the wheelchair she is placed (with great effort) and rolled into the living room where all the action is taking place.  Her husband plops into the chair next to her, and with his arm around her shoulder, tells her everyone who’s there. He feeds her.  He opens presents for her.  “Shows” them to her.  Tells her how pretty everything is.  And each daughter and grand-daughter come to hug and kiss her, wishing her a Merry Christmas.  One of them brings the babies and touches their fingers to her arms to say hi.  She hadn’t met them, in fact nobody knows if she understood that her grandson’s wife had given birth.  But none of that matters.  They talk to her as though she’s still a vibrant member of the family and its matriarch.

Such love and devotion with nothing given in return.  I’ve never heard the word “burden” uttered.  And there’s nothing about their actions that remotely hints that.

Merry Christmas to that family.  May those among us who are healthy realize it and be grateful for it.

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Florida sunset!

Florida sunset! (Photo credit: Odalaigh)

It’s hard to believe that 6 weeks has come and almost gone drawing our south-east bus trip to a close.  It’s felt long and momentary in its own paradoxical way.  Funny how hindsight has that affect on you.  On the one hand I feel like we’ve been gone forever, putting a hold on the scheduled routine of my life and its openings for spontaneity.  Yet now as I reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve done, it feels like just yesterday that we took off.  What an odd phenomenon.

It’s been a while since my last post though it’s not for lack of trying.  Twice I wrote pieces regarding my impressions about the snow birds who flock to Florida and the Disney utopian town of Celebration, and twice Word Press deleted the copy as I was trying to add pictures, moments later automatically saving the blank page as my draft.  It irritated me enough to bite my nose to spite my face, say f*** it and go on with my evening without an entry.  Now I’m “saving” along the way until they get that glitch (I assume it was “they”) resolved.  I’m not a terribly patient person by nature.  Can you tell?

Key West

Key West (Photo credit: GarySlinger)

We spent the bulk of our time in Florida – down the East coast and back up the Gulf side so I’ve had my fill of ocean and beach for now.  I admit to enjoying the Gulf side more because of its greater feeling of space and residential sensibility.  Plus there seems to be more than just palm trees to look at.  I did love exploring the Everglades which wasn’t a surprise since National Parks rank high on my list of must sees.

The Keys were also fun – it’s a great past-time to bike the streets all over Key West – and frankly, all of Florida due to the flat terrain, though it’s the hills and forests that I love so much about the northern southeast of the country (is that an oxymoron?  Northern Southeast?)  Anyway – I’m referring to Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

My greatest impression of Florida is that it’s loaded with seniors, especially snow birds this time of year.  License plates from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Wisconsin, Michigan and other states flood the campgrounds where these older citizens live out the winter months.  One of the “RV resorts” in Venice was mostly a mobile home park which doubled as winter camp for its part-time residents.  And their calendars get filled with activities like bingo, shuffle board, pot luck suppers and dance, coffee and pastry get togethers while they toodle around the place on adult tricycles and golf carts.  It’s a sight for the un-itiated like me.  Our campground in the Everglades was the setting for a wedding between two snowbirds celebrating their second anniversary wintering there together.  The whole place was invited so I went too; it was a charming diversion while waiting for my laundry to finish drying!  Here’s a taste of the wedding.

the groom waiting for his bride to arrive by golf cart

here she is!

The Orlando area was a surprise, very much like Pigeon Forge in my neck of the woods with its bumper to bumper traffic and kitschy stores trumpeting all sorts of cheap trinkets for tourists.  The highlight for us was touring Celebration, Disney’s vision of a utopian residential village built around a town center.  When I read about its development years ago I pictured row after row of colorful pseudo cheerful houses with picket fences, each looking exactly like its neighbor.  Shame on me for not assuming they’d commission famed architects Michael Graves, Philip Johnson and Robert A.M. Stern among others to design key elements of this town.  It was charming and I can appreciate its appeal.

town center

residential street in Celebration

Lighthouse in Tybee Island, Georgia, USA.

Image via Wikipedia

But my favorite place wasn’t in Florida at all.  It was Tybee Island in Georgia, just 16 miles east of Savannah on a wild piece of land resplendent with the natural growth of the region.  I love its earthiness and understated homes and especially its zoning law of a maximum three-story structure.

Sea Oats on Tybee Island Beach.

Image via Wikipedia

That substantially limits hotels and keeps tourists at a minimum offering a lifestyle the residents can really enjoy.  I’ll definitely be going back, may even check real estate prices.

Right now we sit in our wooded campsite at Stone Mountain Campground, about three hours from home.  These two days will cap our winter adventure for the season.  Tomorrow I’ll hike and bike and we’ll celebrate our last bus dinner with hot dogs and baked beans!

I‘m looking forward to going home just as I look forward to going away.  I need  both in my life.  Both feed my soul.

See you at home.

How is your winter going?

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Be forewarned – this is a Christmas rant...

A silent minority I am no longer, at least on this blog.  Actually, in life I’ve never been accused of being demure, though living in the South has offered a fruitful exercise in patience and understanding.  If I don’t want to be ostracized during this season of joyful expression then I must accept the south’s assumption that everyone is Christian during December.

There are no Jews.  No Buddhists.  No celebrations of Kwanzaa.  No agnostic expressions of love and giving.  In fact there are no traditions worthy of recognition other than for those who believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. You don’t get to play in December’s sandbox of love unless you share the belief in Jesus Christ the lord of lords.

Holiday get togethers I’ve attended start with a prayer in the name of “Jesus Christ our Lord” and, at times, end with an impromptu Bible study of relevant scripture.  That kind of agenda was not included on the invitation but, hey, that’s what this season’s about, isn’t it?

Frankly, I’m not bothered a lick that people believe in the divinity of Christ.  My feeling is that the spiritual path tends to lead to the same place regardless of the avenues taken.  And if it offers joy and peace for people to think Jesus is God, good for them.

It’s equally ok if you don’t.  

And I don’t.

My heritage is Judaism and my family celebrated Hanukkah – in December.  And it usually falls right around Christmas time.

As an adult I don’t identify as Jewish, certainly not as Christian either.  My spiritual tradition incorporates philosophies of Buddhism and Yoga flavored by a Native American appreciation for nature and all living things.  But it’s a personal practice that doesn’t include the assumption that you feel the same way.

I don’t need Jesus to save my soul, in fact, my soul doesn’t need saving.  My conscience is clear, my heart is full, my principles and values are in tact AND I celebrate the season of giving and love during December.  I don’t give thanks for all the grace in my life in the name of Jesus Christ.

If you’re Christian, enjoy the holiness of the season.

If you’re not -

Happy Holidays to you and yours in the name of your own traditions.  May we all absorb the warmth of this time of year and offer it out to the universe.

Namaste.

Carry on …

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oh christmas tree, oh christmas treeThrough the front door there’s a great view of a decked out Christmas tree basking in  white lights, covered with snow and dripping with big sparkly white round ornaments.  A white Christmas is definitely being celebrated in this house.  But the mood is somewhat blue.

My hospice patient and her caregiver husband live here.  They’re both seniors and have spent most of their lives together –  working their family business and traveling in the RV in which they expected a multitude of road trips during their retirement years.

NEW MEXICO 2006 RECREATIONAL VEHICLE plate

Image by woody1778a via Flickr

Four years ago husband sold the RV; wife could no longer negotiate the steps to assume her role as navigator in chief.  That act signified an admission of his wife’s fatal disease and the death of dreams that had been years in the planning.  That was also the last year she spoke; she hasn’t uttered a word since.  Not because she was disappointed, but because her Alzheimer’s had advanced enough to rob her of voice.  Now husband spends his days taking care of her.

Decorating the Christmas tree is something they always did together.  In fact, she bought this very tree and the ornaments.  It came adorned with white lights and snow. This year they decorated together again.  He set it up, he added the balls, covered the tree base, wrapped the presents and carefully arranged them at the bottom.  Wife slumped in her chair, sucked her lower lip, wrung her hands and nodded off.  That’s this year’s Christmas, at least until his children join them in a couple of weeks.

Husband cherishes wife.  She’s the love of his life and when she was diagnosed 8 years ago he promised he’d care for her until the end of her days.  He meant it, despite the sacrifice it entails.

Being housebound is one of those sacrifices, except for my weekly visits to socialize with him and sit with her during the couple of hours he goes where he wants.  His spirits are high, he laughs easily, he loves big.  He embodies the true spirit of giving.  And when he allows himself to think of how things were supposed to be, the twinkle in his eye grows dimmer.

He inspires me.  He fills me with admiration.  What inspires you this season?

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Christmas in the post-War United States

I love the Christmas holiday time, but only after Thanksgiving.  It annoys me to see Christmas upstage Halloween and Thanksgiving in all the commercial venues.

Halloween doesn’t do much for me now that I’m past the candy gorging years but I really enjoy Thanksgiving, what it signifies and the time spent with family.  Then I’m ready to move on to Christmas, playing my share of carols in the car and while decorating (a little bit) around the house.

English: Hanukkah menorah, known also as Hanuk...

The time span from Thanksgiving through Christmas is when I think a lot about friends, who they are and what they mean.  This holiday has no religious significance to me as a non-Christian with Jewish heritage, but it holds plenty of sentimental significance.

I don’t stay in touch well.  Not good on the phone.  Don’t entertain much.  And don’t really spend a lot of hang out time with people who are important to me. In fact, many of them live in different cities around the country. But they never lose their places in my heart.  My close friends, my “peeps” in today’s parlance, are people who date way back to childhood, college, early work years and later work years.  Each of them means something special and represents a certain kind of relationship, one that automatically resumes where we left off even it was a year or two or five or even 25 ago.  Our bond holds fast and strong and if any of them needed me, wherever they lived, I’d be there ASAP.

This is generally called a Christmas Cactus, b...

So it’s to them — you — that I wish happy holidays, whether it’s Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa or nothing at all. It signifies the closing of another year. They go fast and furiously these days so enjoy every minute of them with those you hold dear.

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