This year brought many changes to our household. We have cared for my mom for about six years and, after her third fall and broken hip, we finally realized she needed more nursing care than we could provide. Driving down I-70 recently to visit at her new assisted living community, my mind wandered to happier times earlier this summer when our daughter Hannah was married. My mom was there and in as good of health as you can be at over 92. It was a blessed time.
Thinking of my kids and my mom brought up memories from many years ago when mom was still in her own home and the girls were very young. A forecast of bad weather meant our family would not make the journey to Central Missouri to see the “Grandmas” on Christmas. So, Anita and I had planned to take Hannah and Emma to the local nursing home on Christmas Day, distribute goodies and carol the residents. The idea was not on their Christmas wish list, but the girls helped with decorating treats the day before and carefully arranged mouth-watering plates piled high with cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels and homemade peanut clusters.
That Christmas Eve Kansas City received as much as 12 to 20 inches of snow, depending on where you lived. The next morning, with snow still lilting down, we could see that our manger scene, set among the bushes, was almost buried. All that was visible of a kneeling Mary was her forehead capped with a bouffant headdress of snow. The cow, donkey and sheep were buried, not to mention baby Jesus. Joseph had collapsed from joy –apparently blown over in the wind. He was just a hump of white. The poor Wisemen looked as if they would rather have stayed home instead of lugging frankincense and Myrrh through our landscaping.
After our family traditions that morning (which include homemade cinnamon rolls before stockings, breakfast casserole, reading the Christmas story in Luke and then gifts), I opened the garage door and paused. “What am I doing?” I thought to myself. I really didn’t want to shovel the driveway and questioned whether our little Honda could make it down our country lane and onto the road.
“Is it worth it?” “Will anyone really care if we don’t show up?”
I thought of a multitude of excuses why NOT to drive into town. I wasn’t feelin’ the determination of those snow-covered Wisemen.
I came in and Anita immediately read my mind. Without either of us saying a word, I turned around and headed back out. With one side of the driveway cleared I made a test run with our old All-Wheel-Drive CR-V down our long and winding lane to the road, which was still untouched by vehicle tracks.
Returning to the garage, I loaded up the family and we made our way through Pleasant Hill. It was a virtual ghost town. Pleasant Hill Health and Rehab was a similar story – only one or two big SUVs sat with their windows already covered with fresh snow. Hmmm. Maybe we made the right decision, I thought.
Inside we greeted the CNAs with a special plate of cookies and thanked them for their service to the residents on this snowy holiday. Passing out our other goodies, the residents’ faces lit up, not because of the sugary treats, but at the moment their eyes met those of Hannah and Emma. Big grins ensued and they reached out to hug or pat the girls on the cheek. The residents laughed with delight.
Later we made our way to the cafeteria, where residents were wheeling and walking in. Anita played the piano and we sang every Christmas tune and Christmas hymn we knew. Our captive audience was smiling and joining in and didn’t mind if we didn’t know all the words. They did, and that was all that mattered.
On the way home I asked the girls why it was important to give up part of our Christmas to visit with people we had never met before.
“Because it’s Christmas Day and there were no families to see their grammas and grampas,” Hannah replied.
“We were their family,” Emma added.
We didn’t bring frankincense or Myrrh, and our family quartet wasn’t a choir of Heavenly angels announcing the birth of Christ, but our little offering of time to some lonely nursing home residents was the best – maybe only gift – we could lay at the manger that snowy Christmas morning.
Grandma Imler is now with the Lord and we miss her very much. My mom is having a very difficult time with her new reality. Weather permitting, we’ll make the trek (with our new son-in-law Mason) to see her over Christmas weekend along with my siblings. But if not, I pray there is a family somewhere close that can, for one day, bring their simple gift of time to her and the other grandmas and grandpas.
From our home to yours, Merry Christmas.
–By Dwight Widaman