The Darkest Month Approaches

Christmas had always been my favorite holiday. When I was young enough to still believe in Santa as a child, I tried hard to stay awake and listen for the sleighbells on the roof, though we were on the first floor of a two and a half story home with Aunt Helen and Uncle Adam above us.

Rick said that he loved Christmas as a child, too. He was an only child, with Aunts and Uncles living only neighborhoods away, and I’m sure there were many presents under his tree, too.

As young parents ourselves, we enjoyed decorating our apartment with home made ornaments of wood and fabric … when our daughter was a toddler we began having an open house every Christmas Eve, inviting our friends to bring their children to us during the afternoon to play with Trish while they went out for last minute shopping or wrapping. We continued doing that after we bought our first home here in town, playing Christmas records and having sing alongs with the kids. We stopped doing that when our first child went to college and our second child was in daycare and we were both working full time to cover expenses of both college and daycare …

Our two children had two very different childhoods. Our daughter lived in the same town, from kindergarten age on, as our son who was born many years later. She grew up with four grandparents and many cousins who gathered almost every Sunday at my parents home for cookouts, weather permitting. And she spent many after school hours with my husband’s parents as he and I were both working full time in most of those years. She was a school and town athlete, a strong academic student, and a member of a group of similarly-skilled friends who enjoyed each other’s company.

Our son, born almost seventeen years later, grew up with three grandparents (Ricks dad died of Cancer when Rob was just a baby) who all had serious age related illnesses … cancers, blindness, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, COPD and related depression. Our time was often split between caring and being involved in Rob’s life while caring and being involved in the medical care of our parents.  While our daughter had enjoyed camping trips with us each summer, our son’s vacations were very limited to day trips locally. We did our best to keep him as involved in town sports as we had our daughter, but when we needed teachers’ support in understanding his parents’ limited homework assistance time, we were let down and eventually pulled him out of our small town school system, enrolling him instead in the larger town where I worked, believing he would have wider exposure to technology there. But in the larger school, with affluent peers who regularly attended sports camps and had academic tutors, he faced larger challenges than we were able to help him meet. Still, he, like his sister, was accepted into each of the three colleges he’d applied, but eventually changed course and focused instead on training for a creer as a state certified fire fighter and paramedic.

Rick and I missed many of our grandchildren’s games, plays, recitals, etc., in Maine during those years of elder care and Rob’s youth. We did our best to stay connected and visited as often as possible for Christmas and birthdays and such. And our granddaughter and grandson are now adults themselves, with college years now ending and their own adult lives beginning.

Our newest grandchild is now nine months old, and will never get to sit in his Grampy Rick’s lap … but I have put away one of each of the trucks Rick had made, so that he will know the work of his Grampy’s hands, as our older grandchildren have.  Our son and his new little family live not far away, and they are building their own family life together. I know if Rick were still here with me, he would help us work out a way to be lovingly connected without being physically demanding, as our parents had all been during Rob’s childhood. I reach out to them, invite them here, and send messages now and then to let them know that I love them. I hesitate to ask more of them, as I don’t want to be a cloud in their lives. But I do miss them … all of them, here and in Maine. I can visit Maine when I want, and see my daughter and sometimes my two grandchildren there. And I can wait, patiently, quietly, until my son and his wife and child want to visit me …  not because they have to visit me … but because they want to, or because their little boy will want to. Meantime, I can give him one of his trucks for each holiday and special time … the wooden toys his Grampy made because he knew, one day, there would be another grandchild…

It is ironic that the CD player in the shop, where Rick and I had played Christmas Music all year long for his Wooden Toy and Gifts, is no longer working. The shop is quiet … the sounds of saws and sanders, Rick’s footsteps on the stairs, the clunk of heavy wood being placed upon the table … I miss those sounds.  I have lit the candles in the windows to honor Rick’s and my love of Christmas … I believe he will be happy I did at least that for what was our favorite holiday … I still cannot comprehend why his life was taken from us on that special morning. The candles will help on these darkest of dark nights.

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