Beyond my big picture window, the world dresses in blue shadows, as it does every clear day before the sun rises to yellow its world. I sit in my same comfy chair with a cup of coffee beside me and pen and paper in my lap. I’m suppose to be writing, but instead my eyes bounce between the view outside — to the view inside, where with help of man-made light, lives a tiny world of my making on top my coffee table — a table-scape where fake pumpkins have just given way to flickers of a winter candle.
The year revolves around the dance floor, each turn coming faster and faster, making it a struggle to keep up. Then, just like that — the dance slows down. The music stops. And I look up — I look up to see it’s Advent? How in the world can Advent already be here?
Well, it is. I know because I went to church for the first time in two years yesterday. And to top that, I went for the best reason of all: I wanted to. For me, for now, It was time to wake up. Time to crawl out of a warm bed into the cold of a morning. Time to resume everyday life with church being part of the picture window.
And how wonderful to do just that. To wake up to the sounds of a beloved husband snoozing. To dogs snoring and sprawled all over the bed as if they owned it. To listen to the swooshing heated air falling out of ducts hidden within my walls.
It’s Advent. Advent, as in, ‘coming.’ As in Christmas is coming soon. As in, all is well. All is calm, all is bright. Sleep in heavenly peace.
And what’s not all calm and bright — well — Advent grants us time to prepare ourselves — to put our best faces on, so to speak — sort of like putting a dash of red lipstick on in the rear-view mirror of the car, while waiting for a traffic light to shine green — or for some, less mobile, while sitting in a wheelchair waiting for death and two tacos from Taco Bell to come.
Still alive, though a far cry from her everyday self, that’s what my lovely mother-in-law did during yesterday’s daily visit with my husband, her son. She put on a dash of lipstick and a few other cosmetics to make herself feel better while waiting for a couple of fast-food tacos. Perhaps she did it to make herself feel more like her old self — maybe to reclaim a small fragment of an everyday life she no longer owned. Or leased.
And who knows that maybe the gloss did the trick for a while, since she and my husband enjoyed a leisurely visit for a change — instead of one truncated by sleep, like others this past week. But by nine o’clock, the shine must have worn off because nothing was calm or bright in Janice’s world. We know because — completely out of character — she called my husband on the telephone to fix it. And after failing to do it, she asked for me.
Hello. That’s all I remember saying before she launched into a series of short whispers.
She needed to find a place to stay for a couple of days. Her husband needed a break from his around-the-clock care-giving. She knew her husband hated her. Stuck in bed, she wasn’t tired. She couldn’t sleep. She was desperate. Needed to get out of there. Tonight.
I listened until she grew too tired to talk, until she had said her piece, until she wound down enough to fall into what I hope was a peaceful slumber — in a world far removed from heavenly peace that — well better to face it — doesn’t even try to put its best face on most of the time. Unless it’s running for office. Or posing before a camera. And then not always.
The call left me unsettled. It left me feeling powerless. It left me feeling blue.
How strange that blue skies denote happy times while feeling blue is anything but. There is a heaviness to blue. But thank God, not so heavy to keep the sun from climbing the sky to lighten life up a bit. For the calendar to chug along its way to the light of Christmas Day.
Real light, true light — why it’s enough to warm a soul from the inside out — to set a face aglow. No lipstick required.
Advent Already? Yes. Advent Already. Amen. Amen.
Come what may.
I suspect you’re not aware of how much your mother-in-law has in common with Aloise Steiner Buckley, mother of Bill Buckley, Jr. But, when I read your post, I remembered the obituary Bill wrote in the “National Review” when his mother died, and the last paragraph that was so touching:
Five days before she died – one week having gone by without her having said anything, though she clutched the hands of her children and grandchildren as they came to visit, came to say good-bye – the nurse brought her from the bathroom to the armchair and – inflexible rule – put on her lipstick, and the touch of rouge, and the pearls. Suddenly, and for the first time since the terminal descent began a fortnight earlier, she reached out for her mirror. With effort she raised it in front of her face, and then said, a teasing smile on her face as she turned to the nurse, “Isn’t it amazing that anyone so old can be so beautiful?” The answer, clearly, was, Yes, it was amazing that anyone could be so beautiful.
You can read the entire piece here.
As for your phone call… Well. Here’s another little story.
Last week, at 4 a.m., my cell phone rang. When I first awoke, I was sure it was Mom, and that she’d fallen or needed something. I couldn’t find the danged phone so I turned on the light and finally spotted it, but by that time it had stopped ringing.
I was sufficiently “with it” by that time to realize it wasn’t Mom who had called, but I did wonder who it might have been. Probably a wrong number, I thought. I flipped open the phone and… there was no missed call – no evidence whatsoever that the phone had been ringing. And yet it was ringing, even after I got out of bed – unless I dreamed that, too.
Who knows? I finally decided that, even if it was Mom, she didn’t need my help and probably just had called to chat, since she often roamed at that hour of the night. With that, I went back to bed and went to sleep.
Come what may, indeed. 😉
Just about a month ago I discovered your website. I love your wrinting so much! Even though most of the time it makes me cry. Just keep it up, please. You don’t know how many of us can relate to your stories. Merry Christmas.
You’re right about my not knowing the story about Mrs. Buckley and her lipstick. If it weren’t for my husband, you and a few others om my blog list, my world would be mighty small indeed. Why, living in a monastery wouldn’t yield such a different lifestyle as what I currently enjoy!
But I’m sure glad to know the story — your words and Bill’s make me realize that a dab of lipstick can raise the spirits for some as much as a rising sun in the east can raise mine, after a series of overcast days. I’m always amazed at how much our inner and outer lives affect one another — I guess because they’re flip sides of the same coin, so to speak.
Love the story about your late night phone call — and your vulnerability in sharing it. Not to mention your satisfactory conclusion. Having dreamed some very real dreams myself of late, who can say where dreams stop and reality begins? I only know I try to pay attention to my remembered dreams — especially when full of rich details.
Oh — thanks for your words of appreciation — and for taking time to let me know.
I am writing more these days, and thankfully, finding it easier to do so. Truth is, everyday life these days doesn’t have me running for cover as much as it did the first nine months of the year. I’m more at peace, since writing the post “Odd One Out,” — not because I live amidst peace, but at least somewhere near a state of peacefire (at least on one side of the family) — which is a hopeful beginning.
May these days of Advent enrich our Christmas to come.
Just came back to say I’ve now read ASB’s obituary in full. And you know as well as I — I am richer for it. Thank you.