The gift of time

Pulling into the driveway on a dark December night, the warm glow of family radiates from the house. Christmas lights sparkle on the tree; I see my daughter through the window and the dog wagging in greeting.

Opening the door, there’s a rush of warmth, the smells of dinner cooking and the familiar chaos of everyone being home at the same time. I appreciate it all just a little more tonight.

In my mind, I replay the events of the afternoon: the people I’ve met, the stories I’ve heard, the lives that have been lived, the little world that takes place there.

Earlier that day we had an office outing to a local rest home — someone from Branigan used to volunteer there. Wouldn’t it be nice to visit with the residents; we’ll bring them the Christmas cookies we made. And it was nice. The coordinator thanked us again and again for coming by.

We met Lucille, who just had a birthday — 93, 94? Her family had been there then to celebrate: children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. There was Val, who was from England. Marie, who had been a seamstress; Eleanor, who dared us to guess how old she was. Marian, Eleanor’s best friend and bingo partner; and Joan, who’s real name was Joann, but Joan was easier, she shrugged.

“Well, I’m going to call you Joann,” I said. “Will your family visit you on Christmas?”

“No,” she said. It was too far for a sister in Green Bay to travel and no one else lives nearby. Another shrug.

Eleanor asked if we wanted to see her room. We did. We admired her crystal nativity and the Christmas wreath on the door. We asked about the photograph on the table. It was her husband, who died more than 20 years ago, the photo taken in the backyard of the home where they had lived.

As I left that place where time has a different meaning, the busyness of everyday life grabbed hold of me again. After dinner, as family members scattered — a basketball game, Christmas shopping, homework — I thought again of the day’s events and hoped we would visit again. Would it be more for me or for them, I’m not quite sure.

Perhaps it’s simply to reinforce the belief that a little kindness goes a long way, during this (or any) time of year.

Merry Christmas.


— Janet Raasch, senior counselor