Archive for the ‘God’ Category

Lightening Flashes Over the East Bay Hills

It’s unusual to have thunder roll over the East Bay hills from across the choppy waters of San Francisco’s bay, but it did the other night, and when the lightning flashed did Ken notice his darkened room glow for a brief moment? Did he hear the soft rumble as the storm moved on? Did he wonder what it was? Was he frightened? Lost in his dungeon of disease does he understand rain, or is it just wet? Are the elements nothing to him? He knows cold and seeks out warmth from the furnace to escape from the discomfort of feeling cold, but cold and warmth make no noise, and rain is only a whisper.

Ken doesn’t like loud noises. If I make too much clatter with pots and pans while cooking, he calls out asking, “What’s going on?” What’s all that noise? A door slamming, the shattering of a breaking dish causes him instant anger. I’ve wondered if it’s the suddenness that startles him. Perhaps it’s his inability to identify the noise that causes him grief, and thunder coming from nowhere might add another dimension of mystery to his already confused mind.

When he was well Ken would wake me — if the thunder didn’t. “Listen to that,” he would whisper, nudging me until I acknowledged him. “That’s thunder! Did you hear the thunder?” “I do now,” I replied, eyes wide open. The window shades were up in the bedroom so we could just lie there in the comfort of our pillows and blankets watching the sky flash and hear the thunder clap. Listening to the rain on the roof we knew the storm was passing as the sounds diminished and sleep retuned.

Perhaps, it was because we don’t live in mountain country that we have always found the occasional production of electricity by Mother Nature in our geographical area to be so incredibly fascinating, but we did.

Remembering one year when we took our boys backpacking in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, we noticed the quickly gathering clouds and decided it was time to pitch our tents because rain was inevitable. Good thing they were the fast, pop-up tents as we barely got inside with our gear before the downpour began. It was late afternoon so we didn’t always see the lightning, but the thunder was the kind where you wanted to pull your head in, zip up the sleeping bag and repent for surely the wrath of God was at hand. Great deep rumblings and cracking sounds filled the forests around us and the grassy meadow bowed before the driving rain — and then it was over. Summer mountain storms are like that; quickly gathered, quickly gone.

Captivated, we all watched the grand finale through the flaps of our tents, our boys just a stone’s throw away. Wind pushed away the clouds allowing light to fall against the last rain showers and flood the meadow with sunshine so brilliant we squinted to see a rainbow arching across the dazzling-blue sky. Our show continued as billowing clouds edged in gray circled the horizon – a canvas yet to be painted. Director Sun was not finished, but had to move quickly – his light was fading. With a wizard’s brush and pallet he continued splashing shades of pastels against the patchwork vapors of white: orange, yellow, apricot, pink, blue and lavender – hues and tints constantly changing, dimming as the day ebbed and dusk settled ending nature’s remarkable display of talent. The tent critics’ review: Bravo! Outstanding! Extraordinary! Stunning! Magnificent!

Life with Ken has always been an adventure. Even now as we sally forth into the fog of AD, it is still an adventure – not one either of us would have chosen, much less sally forth into – but nonetheless an adventure. If he had reason, if he had knowledge – a memory – we could have shared the recent rain storm and thunder – a privilege not granted. However, in the future when I hear its distant growl, and the rain begins to fall I will be glad, being more grateful, for the good times we have enjoyed.

Someday — somewhere — in our eternal journey, we will meet again, and he can tell me how much he has missed the rain, the lightning, the thunder, and me. And then we will once again sally forth — happily — into our life-after-life adventure.

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Or perhaps I’ll call it The Fourteen Days of Christmas.  Today, as I am writing, it is January 6, 2011, a little off my usual schedule because we’ve been celebrating a long Christmas, but now it’s over.  And you know what?  I really like Christmas spread  o  u  t,  taking as much of  December as it needs.

If you are among the generations of through-and-through Americans whose big days are Christmas Eve and Christmas Day your holiday ended at midnight, December 25th, just as ours did before this year.  Craming so many celebrations into such a small space of time, it would seem the date was more important than the day.  After weeks, and even months of preparation Christmas is over in a flash, and now it’s gone for another year. The jolly old elf, his reindeer, and all of his helpers are taking a well-deserved rest, and that includes moms and dads everywhere.

However, if you don’t live in the USA customs for the celebration of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ can be different, and are actually more in keeping with the authentic event than all the frantic madness we impose upon ourselves. 

Don’t think I’m a Scrooge grumbling “Bah-Humbug” through this wonderful season of merriment and joy. I’m not.  I love Christmas, the carols, the cards, the parties, the well wishes and even the shopping.  And more; before AD, Ken and I so looked forward to driving through the neighborhoods seeing the decorated homes, malls and the beautiful displays on the grounds of churches everywhere, especially the live nativity scenes where we could let our imaginations go and become part of what occurred more than 2,000 years ago: the birth of a tiny baby whose life and teachings have changed the world.   Yes, Christmas is a beautiful and unique celebration – and different – as we all know elsewhere in the world.

My family and friends who have close ties to Mexico tell me that it is January 5, when the children leave their shoes out to be filled with gifts – not their stockings, but their shoes – and gifts not coming from our white-bearded friend – but from the Three Wise Men who arrive on January 6.  Think about it; isn’t the tradition of gift giving at Christmastime based on The Three Wise Men who traveled from afar bringing the Christ Child gold, frankincense and myrrh as they worshipped the New Born King?

Leading up to the 24th and 25th of December there are posadas and celebrations where loved ones reenact the blessed event, with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day being a more reverent time.  But no matter what the custom or tradition, it is a joyous celebration for Christians everywhere.

This year I have found wonderful flexibility in December.  Perhaps taking a bit of the customs from south of the border.  Singing The Twelve Days Of Christmas, while being a delightful carol, sounds a little much for me.  Who needs all of those maids amilking and noisy French horns?  But 14 days of Christmas with some light festivities, and then a few days of rest in between parties is perfect.  When Ken was well, it was tradition to spend Christmas Eve at daughter Julie’s house, Christmas morning at our house, and Christmas afternoon at grandson Sean’s house.  It seemed we spent as much time in the car as we did with family.

Ken no longer travels well, so I declined all invitations to leave our home.  “Then we’ll come to your house,” said Sean.  “What evening would be good?”  I gave him a date and beginning the Tuesday before Christmas we dined and relaxed with those who could attend, and then opened gifts with no rush in having to get the kids home and in bed, or dropping someone off at the next stop.  A few days later we did it all over again with other members of our family.

“How joyful it has been to spread out the Holiday,” I emailed our cousin, Penny, whose family has also multiplied over the years, living in various parts of Oregon.    She agreed, saying  they also spread the Holiday over several days, commenting on how well it has worked for their family.   Christmas Day can be any day we choose.

If any of these changes mattered to Ken it’s highly unlikely.   He no longer has any curiousity or interest in brightly wrapped gifts, decorations, or colorful lights, and has no understanding of the holiday.  But always a social person, he still seems to enjoy having people around him, and especially the little ones.  Our last Christmas celebration was Monday evening with daughter Julie, husband Tim; son John and wife Marisol, and their two little ones, Joaquin and Maya.  The eight of us represented four generations, and when Ken looked at four-year-old Maya, seeing her beautiful brown eyes and dark hair, he exclaimed, “What a little doll.”

With no memory of who she is or where she fits into this vast puzzle we call family, Alzheimer’s has not taken away his appreciation of the beauty of children, and for that I am grateful. 

So after all is said and done, the gifts opened, hugs and kisses for everyone, and the last guest drove out of sight what did we get for Christmas?  The best gift of all:  Family and friends – in and out of our home — bringing their presents and presence, giving us their gifts of time and themselves.  Who could ask or want for anything more?

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