It Really is the Presence

It Really is the Presence

T’was the day before Christmas as we drove through Vermont,

Thing1 and I both remarked thanks to Dartmouth-Hitchcock hospital we had all anyone could want.

Most Christmas Eves are spent with parent and relatives,

Featuring roast beast dinners that can only be described with superlatives

Like sumptuous, scrumptious and delicious,

And the kids even manage to escape doing the dishes.

Often candlelight church services follow the dinners,

Then hanging stockings and setting out cookies to keep Santa from getting any slimmer.

Next reading the Night Before Christmas before heading to bed,

With dreams of turkey and presents dancing in everyone’s heads.

But 2018 was a year like no other,

With dozens of trips to Dartmouth for Thing1 and his mother.

Right up through October and November they drove

Back and forth Thing1’s troubles with ulcerative colitis to finally solve.

With surgeries planned, holiday plans stayed up in the air.

And Grandparents not knowing when or if they should be there,

A $10 thrift store fir tree the only sign

That at our house a holiday was coming down the line.

Then the day before Christmas, we got home late in the day but so happy.

There was no time for roast beast, our Eve schedule was totally scrappy,

All we wanted to do was scarf down some leftovers

Then sit on the sectional watching TV and wait for the holidays to blow over.

But as ‘Papa’ was dusting crumbs off his sweatshirt and I was swearing my energy was finally sapped,

Thing2 came in with a request for a reading of a family favorite before we could get to our long winter’s naps.

I rose from my spot on the sectional to retrieve the famous book,

My coveted corner instantly appropriated by my offspring suddenly turned crook.

On my return, his eyes asked, “Whatsa matter?”

I said, “It’s your year to read, now out of my seat you little squatter!”

Thing2 looked at his audience with a giggle,

And situated himself in the center with quite a few wriggles.

The book finally got read

And the three exhausted adults and one exuberant boy finally got to bed.

Santa had left instructions for mom to layout a few stockings,

The Big Guy and I earlier had been talking

About a year with no presents – just a quiet day –

But Thing2 and I had found a single gift of Trivial Pursuit for the family to play.

Christmas morning came with a quiet breakfast,

Aside from a the barely stuffed stockings, no unwrapping fuss.

There was only the board game we decided to play,

As around the coffee table we sat and laughed and kibitzed all day.

Now, it’s the week after Christmas and the grandparents are here

They’re following dinner with friends and a week of good cheer.

The twinkle lights are still glowing and the tree is still up

No plethora of gifts under it branches has been lined up.

We’ll all play Santa today and tomorrow,

But to go overboard with gifts we’ve sworn not steal, beg or borrow

Because just as a famous doctor through a green old Grinch hinted,

It’s not with boxes and bags that a holiday is minted.

In fact the absence of wrappings and tags and presents

Has helped us remember that the best holidays are about just being present.

This Blessed Year

This Blessed Year

it’s Monday morning, almost 8 AM on Christmas Eve. The flurries outside the window are spaced far apart, falling so slowly that time takes a deep breath in and pauses.

I want to my firstborn, my adult child sleeping in the hospital gurney beside my chair, to wake up. The flurries will turn to flakes later, and we have a long drive home. But in this breathing room, the slow white dots force me to mark this moment.

This week and tonight, much of the world is celebrating light —hope — in the darkest time of the year. For me, this week of long night and, ironically, longer days hasn’t been about hope. To be sure, there has been hope for the healthy life my son will reclaim next year, but mostly, especially in the darkness, there has been thanks for the gift of this awful, this blessed year.

Equinox Autumn

Equinox Autumn
Equinox Autumn, 4”x6”, Oil on Board, $45

The day before we left for the hospital, I took down my show at the Oldcastle Theater. I try not to count my chickens before they’re hatched at art shows, but I will admit I was surprised that only one item had sold (I am definitely getting too big for my britches).

they’re 100 different ways to rationalize the results-for the good or the bad-but I’m still looking at it as an overall positive experience. The person curating the show was very nice to meet, and a few people who hadn’t seen my work saw it and sent encouraging feedback.

This is me blowing sunshine. It’s finding the good where I can. And the good is that the paintings will make people at home happy for a little while longer until they go to new homes.

If you are interested in purchasing this painting, please contact me directly.
Museum-quality prints or art on household items available here. 

The Longest Night

The Longest Night

It’s 11PM.

This time yesterday, eighteen-year-old Thing1 and I were packing up cookies we’d made most of the day. His girlfriend and twelve-year-old Thing2 had pitched in, offering cookie decorating skills and keeping the assembly line moving.

Thing1 and I loaded the cookie care packages into the car after dropping Thing2 at school and started the soggy 2.5 hour drive from southwest Vermont to Dartmouth Hospital. Clouds were moving through the mountains, and, as we do on every drive, we both remarked on the powerful beauty around us.

Today around five o’clock, I got Thing1 settled into his room in the adolescent pod at the hospital and began delivering one box of cookies to the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit who had been with him when he woke to learn that what we hope will be his last surgery until he’s old was a success. I took two more boxes of cookies to the pediatric unit that had cared for him after his last successful but traumatic surgery in October and then came back to find him getting ready for a winter’s nap on the longest night of what has been a very long year in some ways.

Almost from the beginning of the year, Thing1’s Ulcerative Colitis has been dictating most aspects of his life. It kept him out of school for most of his senior year. It hospitalized him several times and even nearly killed him in the spring.

My firstborn is now dreaming away the longest night of the year. In many ways it’s his first night — the first night of his new life. This last year has been dark, but it has also been rich. It taught him determination. It taught his parents that he will make stupid decisions when he leaves the nest, but he will be able to handle the repercussions. And most of all, this year — with all of its 5 hour round trips to the hospital, with its visits with other patients with UC at the infusion lab, with the extra year at home it has purchased us with our adult child — has made us see almost every day how good our life really is.

It has made me see that just as rich black soil feeds seeds, helping them send out new shoots, a long and sometimes dark year can yield unexpected rewards.