My mother used to say if she died it would be in the month of December. Why? Probably because of all the expectations she felt around the holidays — cooking, decorating, playing hostess, shopping for food and gifts, etc. Many friends told me they were stressed out by Christmas this year.
I love Christmas, especially the handwritten cards from out-of-state friends and relatives. The pictures on the cards of snow, glittery wreaths, the old city of Jerusalem, stained glass windows, angels, a menorah, and personal photos enliven me. I feel connected to everyone in my life at the same time.
It feels like an expression of love receiving and writing Christmas cards much more than the exchange of gifts. Gifts can be difficult to select, some have to be taken back. Generally gifts are things, material objects or such. Cards feel like a more personal expression of something intangible.
But I need the letdown of January because this was one of the most hectic holiday seasons I have ever experienced. The birth of our second grandchild, Bianca, on Oct. 19 would have been enough to fill the entire holiday season. How could I know how much I would love a new granddaughter? How could I know how much excitement and delight she would cause in the family? I could never have predicted it.
When our first grandchild, Noah, was born my daughter and her husband lived in New Mexico and I was only there a few days for Noah’s birth.
But it’s different now that my daughter and her husband live in Longmont. So they could spend the night in the hospital the night before Bianca’s birth, my husband and I stayed overnight at their home with Noah. That was a treat in itself.
But within two weeks after Bianca’s birth, clouds circled me with the news my only brother, Bill, was dying of congestive heart failure. Fluids were building up in his body to an alarming extent and he was in the hospital at least six times in the following weeks.
I felt dark, helpless, mournful and woebegone. During the Thanksgiving break, my son, off from duty in the Coast Guard, went with me to visit Bill, a former flight commander in Vietnam. In spite of Bill’s illness we had a good visit. Weeks later my daughter, her husband and I went to visit Bill in the hospital to possibly say goodbye. I brought my CD player and played “The Best of Cher” music he had requested. Cher’s songs brought up feelings and my eyes watered.
I love my brother, my only sibling.
Now January is here and Bill is still alive and may live for a while defying the doctor’s predictions. One day at a time is all we can count on I guess for any of us.
And I am glad January is here and I’ve had time to slow down and focus on my husband and spend time with him. I’ve also become a syndicated columnist which feels great. And having the grandkids nearby is wonderful beyond words.
So life is full of happiness, joy and sadness but much of that is because we love. We give ourselves without even knowing it and others give to us. We grieve and we continue to love.
I wish you all a Happy New Year and hope things are going well for you in 2013. Let it be the best year ever.
Mary McFerren Stobie grew up in Golden and lives in Wheat Ridge. She is a storyteller, and has had columns published in the Rocky Mountain News, Denver Post and Chicago Tribune. Please contact her with comments at mry_jeanne@yahoo.