My mother loved the holiday Season. Her normally bright smiling face was a little brighter, her smile a little bigger during the holidays.
She suffered from macular degeneration among many other things, and was legally for several of the last years of her life.
I had the unique experience of spending 2-1/2 years of time on the world in Florida with her and my stepdad – Pop – who had a stroke at the end of 2004.
My duties included yard and house maintenance, cooking, shopping, shuttling them to their myriad of doctor appointments, and among other things, putting up the Christmas decorations when that time of year rolled along.
Mom was an incredible woman, and dealt with her physical limitations with as much strength and determination as any person could expect to – more than many would. She went to the “Lighthouse for the Blind” in Ft Lauderdale to learn how to deal with her disability and she learned her lessons well.
In fact, with her ability to maneuver around her home including the kitchen and with the relaxed look on her face as she looked directly at you when she spoke with you, it was often easy to forget she really couldn’t see much at all.
I recall setting up their artificial Christmas tree, which had to be 15 years old – Pop always got his money’s worth out of something. It had been shortened a little through the years, and some of the color-coded tags had fallen off, and the whole process of just setting up the tree itself and getting it all fluffed up was a task in and of itself.
The first Christmas I was there my stepsister, Adrienne – ‘yo Adrienne’ to me – set it up, in fact so she can offer first hand testimony to the challenge.
The lights would come next, and there were a lot of them, in fact 1,000 for a 6’ tree, and they had to be wrapped on each branch, from tip to trunk.
Pop would put most of the ornaments on, and when it was done it was a pretty sight. A lot of depth to the lights, what with them placed all the way to the trunk and all. And bright. Possibly bright enough to be seen from space if placed in the front lawn.
But what exactly, could Mother see? As she sat with her signature smile across her kind face, I asked, “What do you think?” “It’s beautiful” she would say, rocking back and forth and hands clasped in front of her not unlike a child.
I would laugh and tease her “what the heck are talking about, you can’t even see!”
She would feign ignorance and say “Just stop it! That’s not true!”
“Ok, then – tell me, exactly what do you see, really?”
“Well”, she would say hesitantly. “I can see a bright light, like a halo, along the outline of the tree”, and she would draw the outline with her hands out in front of her. She continued, “the inside of that outline is black”. She sat back and looked up at me.
“That’s it?” I asked. “That’s all you see? No ornaments or anything?”
“Pretty much”, she said.
“Then, why do we go though all of this?” I asked tactlessly.
“Because I remember”, she said, looking at her past with a smile on her face, as she sat in her favorite chair.
I love my mother immensely, as do my children, my siblings, their children, and just about anyone else who ever met her.
She was the gentlest, kindest, most loving person I have ever known and any capacity I have for love I got from her. I miss her tremendously, as we all do.
I am also thankful, in a way, that she is with God and not alive today for as much as I love her , I don’t think I could have faced myself in the mirror knowing how she would have been during these holidays that just past.
As it is, I am confident she is with all of us all, watching from Heaven, with the perfect vision the Lord has given her back, and that she is reassured by him that this too shall pass and we will all get through this my children, my brothers and sisters and their families, my friends, and myself.
She helped me to see all the lights and decorations on the tree that wasn’t there this year.
Was this a horrible holiday, this Incarcerated Christmas? Not at all.
And I’ll tell you all about it next time. . .