Thursday, December 17, 2009

“We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”

Brisk but very pleasant weather made Center’s annual caroling outing much more comfortable than it has been in some past years. Thirteen of us gathered at the church house in the village and put together fruit bags and goody trays for shut-ins. Actually right now we have few. Some we send the treats to, but don’t sing to as they go to bed early.

Loudeen is a recovered cancer patient and looked marvelous. She insisted we come inside her lovely home because she had home-made fudge waiting for us! Her husband is in the nursing home, so she welcomed the visit. Then we traveled on down the road to Chester Turner’s farm. Chester is a community favorite, who always makes anyone visiting him feel like a million dollars. He is any thing but a shut-in, but we visit him anyway. His only child was killed in a car accident shortly after he returned from Viet Nam. His wife died a few years back. Chester remains on the farm taking care of his livestock and riding his horses and mule regularly. He will be 92 on his birthday Saturday, as one of our carolers, who is a riding buddy, informed us. So we also sang “Happy Birthday” to Chester. (The mule is 23.)

Next we went to Angel Acres out in the country from Marion to visit those living there and took a couple of baskets of goodies. (I always thought that Angel Acres was sort of sweet name for a home. However, when I reported a couple years ago that an elderly friend went there, our daughter Jeannie, who has a wry sense of humor, made certain that we knew what she thought if she were to ever be sent to a home with that name. So I guess that won’t be her choice for Gerald and me.)

The residents gathered in the living room were very welcoming, and almost everyone of them sang along with us on the carols. (One was asleep in his wheelchair in the other room.) One very sweet little lady not only sang but waved her arms and directed us on every song. I figured her physical therapist would be delighted that she got that exercise, and I wondered if she had once been a song leader. Wishing everyone a merry Christmas, we started our car caravan and headed into town to The Fountains. We enjoyed their lovely decorations and the aquarium in the lobby.

We were there to visit Robert “Pete” Cline, who is 98. Last year the group had caroled to him at his bedside there, but this year he was up and moving well in his walker. He had gained weight and looked good. His daughter and a group from her church had just entertained the entire home in the recreation room, so an attendant ushered us into a smaller kitchenette/game room, and Pete came in to visit with us.

He had lived in our village for many years, but finally he and Rhoda sold their home and moved into Marion across from a daughter’s home, where we visited and caroled. As they aged, Rhoda eventually had to be taken care of in the daughter’s home, and one year we caroled her there and then across the way to the other house to carol Pete. Then Rhoda was gone, but with the daughters’ and grandchildren’s help, Pete stayed in that comfortable home filled with pictures of grandchildren, and we caroled him each year. Now he has 24 hour care, and still has lots of attention from his children and grandkids. After he recognized some of us, we visited and introduced him to our new pastor and other newcomers before we sang, while he wiped tears from his eyes with his clean handkerchief.

Several we have caroled in the past are no longer with us, so we had only one more place to go. That was to the village of Pittsburg where Tally Taylor’s grandmother lives. She and a friend welcomed us warmly inviting us in, but we insisted on singing on the outside as we usually do at people’s homes. Her tiny white poodle came to the door with them and seemed to enjoy the singing. We enjoyed seeing him.

Back to the church house, we descended to the basement fellowship hall, where Shirley Butler as always had made the tables festive. She had assembled coffee and chocolate milk and cookies and doughnuts. We visited and contemplated that within this next year, we will be gathering in our new fellowship hall on the ground floor. Since Sunday, walls had gone up, so we all felt excitement when we arrived and saw that tonight.

Gradually our little group disbanded to get home to children or chores. Shirley dispensed remaining cookies for folks to take home to children or grandchildren. The kitchen was left clean and shiny as Shirley always does for us—with help, of course. She carried paraphernalia up the stairs to her car trunk even though she lives next door—but the church has a big lawn running down towards the creek between it and Shirley and Butch’s house. For years we had a bridge that Butch built to walk across to their place, but a storm took it down a couple of years ago. Their house faces another street around the corner.

After two or three trips to her car, Shirley also carried up the platter piled high with goodies for Jerome, another favorite who doesn’t want caroling but who always welcomes Shirley. No wonder since she takes him frequent plates from our potlucks or brings him treats from in-town restaurants that she knows he likes. Shirley is one of those unsung heroines, whose organizational abilities and artistic eye have blessed us for years as she quietly serves as our hostess.

We all felt some disquiet tonight, for one of our young men went into the hospital on Monday with a heart attack. Yesterday he had a splint put in. He is out of ICU today and back to his own room. His wife Kim is usually our caroling song leader, and their two teen sons usually join us on our travels around the community. They especially liked to visit Chester, and of course elderly people especially like to see young people. I hurried to the computer when I got home to see Kim’s latest Facebook report on Scott. We are praying his heart rhythm will convert back to normal quickly.

We left each place tonight singing, “We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.” That is also my wish for you.

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