The monitor began to squawk. It’s one of those things parents often use for listening to the breathing of their child in the next room, only this time it was the other end of the age spectrum and the sound emanating from the monitor wasn’t the labored breathing of a youngster with a cold, rather it was the singing of three sisters as the fourth, quite frankly, lay on her death bed, her face white and drawn, cheeks growing colder to the touch. They used to be a quartet. On this day they were a trio. And how they could sing. And how they could sing now was unfathomable to us brothers-in-law – a room away – as we listened to our wives’ faltering voices.
Something else that is, or at least should be, unfathomable to me, especially at this season of the year, is how peevish and easily perturbed, picayune and perspective-less we can sometimes become. Yes, the economy is tanking, the stack of unpaid bills are mounting, Christmas is coming, there’s a frustrating-hard-to-find-after-several-attempts-leak-in-the-ceiling and there’s another storm coming so once more it’ll be hard-downpour-raining and in spite of all we’ve to be thankful for it is too often showering burdens not blessings.
“Going Home” – the article early-on Thanksgiving Week (Patch, Suburban Times) that attempted to bring into focus the various emotions experienced this time of year – including what has become a protracted yet poignant good-bye of three sisters to a fourth – was aired on a local radio station on Thanksgiving Eve. Host Mike Lonergan (“The Lonergan Program”, KLAY Radio, 1180 – scroll to 00:46:55) introduced the recitation that he had requested to read with what amounted to symbolical references to rain – a community expressing its unhappiness over being flooded with traffic, inundated by trains, and otherwise drenched in a downpour of mistreatment – perceived or real. But then Lonergan interjected, as we listeners huddled around the radio, “This I am about to read is not about that. It’s about us. It’s about what really matters most in life.”
A company representative penned a request to adopt a family for the holidays. My sister wrote in that her plans for Thanksgiving were to continue her tradition of taking up residence for the evening to help in a shelter for battered women. Still others identified with having lost loved ones recently. “A good woman with a good heart who led a good life and was well-loved – what more can we ask for” wrote a local business owner upon the home-going of her “beautiful mother-in-law” who had passed away the previous Friday at age 86, and then added, “but it is never long enough, is it?”
And some, relating to the 16-year-old taken into Foster Care, shared their stories of those who had ‘landed on their doorsteps.’ One young man now grown “calls me daily trying to assuage his grief for not having done more for his dear mom,” the boy’s benefactor wrote, “remonstrating with himself” for being such a trouble to his mother during his rebellious teenage years.
“A history of abandonment,” is how a yet another middle-aged and single gal described the then-18-year-old who’d come to live with her a couple years back. Now most recently, having completed his GED, this college-bound young man wants to be adopted by the one who took him in, “thrilled to have a family of his own.”
“Homeward Bound” – December 14, 1965 – was written by the Simon half of Simon and Garfunkel who, upon finding himself sitting in a railway station half-way between the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, put pen to paper as he thought about the “idyllic life” that was home, “the best time of my life.”
My sister is a free-lance journalist and related once covering a story in Belfair about a dentist who decided to dedicate his remaining years to the restoration of wild Chinook salmon on Hood Canal. He was very successful. When asked, ‘why salmon?’ she writes that he responded: “Watching the salmon return home to spawn makes me as happy as seeing my grandchildren walk through the door on Thanksgiving day. It’s that ‘coming home, going home, almost home, got to get home, want to be at home, that has me hooked.’”
“Given all those newly homeless and jobless and friendless who can’t find a welcoming ‘doorstep’ to call their own this Thanksgiving season,” observed one of those responding, and with the potential of “family as a powerful bond to bring healing to so many hurts,” eloquently wrote yet another, then perhaps there’s a place at our table, a seat by our fireside, a gift under our tree for someone less fortunate than us in our community.
Let it rain.