Photo: Dancing the carols at Lyn's, Christmas Eve 1979 (L to R: Sharon, me, Alli)
This is for Lyn
And also for Sharon
And for anyone who can relate.
Lyn, this is in memory, among other things, of that December day in the 90's when we went Christmas shopping and you parked the car beside a large, green lawn and we sat there for a bit, talking about how the mild weather wasn't exactly producing the "Christmas spirit" for us.
Neither of us was wearing boots, hats, nor a coat; just light jackets.
The highest temperature on Dec 22 during the years 1943-1994 was 9.5C in 1990.
You should see it now, Lyn -- or maybe you are seeing it now, us mere mortals being not privy to any verifiable clues about the "afterlife" -- I went shopping just a couple of days ago in -12C weather and a whole lot of snow.
I don't recall what the weather was like on Christmas Eve at your place in 1979. There were three of us; you, Sharon and me, all recently divorced, holding down jobs while raising our children, dating occasionally but with no one special; you two finding it in yourselves to celebrate and sing and even dance to the old carols while I played piano and the kids looked at us as if we we'd gone 'round the bend.
But if we were crazy, give me crazy anytime over sane, sensible and sickeningly appropriate.
Speaking of the weather, and with regard to my lack of "climate change" conviction, I'm reminded of a Christmas, back in the 40's (I was about 7), when it rained all through the holidays, making them pretty dismal. My sister reminded me that she and I had received umbrellas from Santa that year. I had totally forgotten.
Anyway, Lyn, you and Sharon eventually remarried; I never did, but still we three got together often, to do what we did best: celebrate birthdays and Fridays. (I gave you a Toni once for your birthday - see photo below).
Then there was a Christmas where we all got together at your place, including husbands Bob and Dave, and the kids, and you still had the piano only it was in the dining room. You sat down to play and sing the only piece you'd ever (more or less) mastered, "Silent Night", and we all stood behind you, listening, until somebody -- I don't remember who, although it wouldn't have been me because I still feel a little guilty about joining in -- motioned that we should all tiptoe away into the living room.
When you had finished, you turned around, got up from the piano bench, came into the living room, looked sternly at the dog and said, "Not you too." And everyone laughed, Lyn included.
As we got older and as people we knew passed away, we three friends talked about funerals, and decided that when our time came a funeral was the last thing we would want. We preferred that people just get together for a party and tell jokes and funny stories about us instead.
The Fates must have heard us, because nowadays a "Celebration of Life" instead of standing around a grave wearing black clothes, is pretty much the done thing.
At your memorial party, your son, "Young Bob", recounted the "Silent Night" incident, and added that, as a teen, he had tried hard to play that carol seriously but always fell into jazzing it up. Smiling broadly, he recounted hearing you calling sternly from upstairs, "If you're going to play it, play it right."
Lyn, if your memory bank is still intact, scroll to the year in the late 80's when the weather was exactly right for Christmas but I, living alone and my daughter having gone to her boyfriend's parents' place in Thunder Bay, wasn't much interested in the holly/jolly season. Like Greta Garbo in her Swedish accent, I told you quite emphatically "I vant to be alone", and you said "O-o-ka-y-y", but you and your spouse, "Big Bob", took time anyway out of your get-together with relatives to drop by and assess my mood. Once convinced that I was perfectly fine and content, and even had a turkey breast in the oven, you respected my wish. I love you for that.
It's a mystery why a day arrived, so many years later, when I suddenly felt compelled to express my gratitude to you for your friendship and your sane and quiet advice over the years, during what turned out to be our very last phone conversation, there having been no clue that you were soon about to leave us.
It makes me think there's far more to this earthly existence than we, for whatever reason, are not given to know. It frustrates me sometimes; I mean, why would we not be allowed to know? What possible good could come out of an abysmal ignorance of our own selves? We're all just fumbling in the dark, and we say and do such stupid things.
A musical group called "Shout Sister" gave a performance in the common room of my apartment building a couple of weeks after you left us, Lyn. One of the songs repeated over and over the phrase "my friends wish me well", and it brought unwanted tears to my eyes. I looked out the window, hoping to distract myself, and there was a breeze riffling the leaves in the tree just outside. If you could communicate that's how you would have done it. You would have found a way to say "stop fussing and just wish me well". I have goose bumps just thinking about it.
Years before, when I received word that my beloved sister-in-law, Donna, had died, I had an overpowering urge to go outside, where a sudden gentle wind came up and riffled the leaves on the trees, and that felt like a message as well. But how can anyone be sure? My daughter, too, told me later that she had had a sudden urge to go outside after receiving the news Donna was gone.
Can the dead communicate? Are they still here around us? Like everyone else, I wonder about that sometimes. A few years ago, on Aug. 13, out of the blue it seemed, I suddenly began to wonder if an old friend from my young bride days, with whom I'd lost contact, was still alive. She was Northern Irish, and I was quoting her when I said (above), "gone round the bend". I checked the obits for her city and found that she had died the year before on Aug. 13.
I'm just saying ...
Nowadays, I can still take or leave Christmas. But for those who look forward to it, I say "enjoy" and isn't it wonderful that this year there's snow, despite the warming alarm!
The weather and a recent exacerbation of my joint/muscle problems have prevented me from getting out to the other end of town to visit Sharon at the nursing home she had been driven to by early-onset Alzheimer's. I have no way of knowing whether she misses me or not, but I've missed her for a long time. Now she doesn't talk or walk, and the last words I heard from her, spoken a year ago at Christmas, were "I love you", looking straight into my eyes and putting her hand on my cheek -- though I have no clue whether she even knew who I was.
Her husband, Dave, had, a couple of years earlier, been devastated when he arrived to visit her, along with their dog, and she announced to the nursing staff, “there’s my dog, and my friend”.
"That was a good day" he said; "she recognized the dog".
As you know, Lyn, Dave died soon after that. And Sharon slowly began to lose her speech as well as facial recognition.
As with my final conversation with you, I can't fathom what caused Sharon's last words to me to be an expression of love when so many times before that she had rambled unintelligibly, often expressing frustration. Or why I'm writing this now, possibly depressing my readers. (I promise not to do this every year.)
Anyway, Merry Christmas, Lyn. There's no need to worry; I'm comfy cozy and I bought a turkey breast, and I have cranberries and I've wrapped the green tree skirt you made for me around the foot of my fake ficas tree which is always strung with tiny lights that I can easily turn on if somebody drops by unexpectedly.
The lights don't show up well in the photo because of my camera flash, but they're there, and I might even play Silent Night on my piano keyboard.
To all: Wishing you the very best of everything!
I'm thankful for a place to express myself, and that my own health is still manageable, and my brain is not too embarrassingly foggy -- although I count on my faithful readers (yes I have a few for which I am very grateful) to let me know if I should slip badly. I won't be offended but thankful for being alerted that it's time to unhang my shingle.
Life is one big mystery, with whole populations at odds with one another, and questions about ourselves not being even partially answered by anything I've so far experienced.
It's natural and human to get angry sometimes but I don't think hate has a natural cause. Wars have at least traditionally stopped long enough to celebrate Christmas Day. If every day were Christmas Day, would we no longer have wars? Didn't somebody write a song about that?
Elvis [YouTube] wanted every day to be like Christmas. Close enough?
The very best thing about the Christmas meme is still this: "Peace and Goodwill to all". We just have to really mean it.
1. Lyn and my daughter
2. Lyn's birthday perm
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Photo by Brian O'Connor, North Bay
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