The weekend was such a weird mixture of sadness and fun!
Friday, I went up to Springfield to visit Mom. We had a good time, and either she was having a good day, or else her memory is improving as her stress levels recede. The only disconnect I noticed was that she didn’t realize how old Ruth Duffy’s children must be. (Ruth is her best friend; they’ve known each other since I was 8 years old.) She said they couldn’t have been more than 15 when Tom died. They had to have been approximately three times that.
We had fun and got some business done, too. Fun at the Greenspring secondhand shop, where I actually found and bought a coffee table for our sunroom. The top of it, set into the French Provincial frame, is a 4-and-a-half foot slab of green marble the same color as the sofa in front of which it now sits. It cost me $25.00. Mom bought a couple of trinkets. We also bought several “Hunks of Greenspring” calendars (buy one here), featuring residents of this retirement community posing “nude” (but not really). I met Mr. April, fully clothed of course, at the secondhand shop. I said to him, “I have three photos of you!”
“You can never get enough!” he replied with a smile, and walked on past.
Here's an amusing video about the making of the calendar.
The business Mom and I had was to add my name to her safety deposit box at the bank.
We had a delightful dinner with several other residents and I spent the night.
Saturday, I drove from Mom’s place 15 minutes to St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Annandale, where the funeral of Vada’s brother, James Gear, took place. Vada is feeling very bad about this brother’s death. He was obviously a very fine person, just as she is. Of course, all eulogies make the deceased out a saint, but in this case, you can tell he really was somebody you’d have been a lot better off knowing.
I wanted, emotionally, to sing the hymns, which included, “The Church’s One Foundation”, “A Mighty Fortress”, and “Amazing Grace.” But in an Episcopal parish? Where the original, ancient Christian faith has become all but unrecognizable? No, I couldn’t. It wouldn’t have given the right witness. So I just stood there respectfully.
Vada thought the ministress went on rather too long. (This clergy woman had cried her way through the whole eulogy, too.) Vada says at her own funeral, we are to sing, “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”, and “O Love that Wilt not Let me Go” and keep the talking to five minutes. I trust we shall not have to remember that any time very soon, but she thinks about these things, being 90.
Right after the service and a light lunch in the parish hall, I sped back to Richmond to be home in time for us to join our next-door neighbors for the evening. Every year, they attend the annual dinner at Michie Tavern. That’s pronounced “Mickey” and it’s a colonial inn located at the bottom of the same mountain, the top of which is Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello. It’s basically a large log cabin. You take the tour of the lodgings, where a magician entertains in one room, a tour guide tells stories in another room, and you dance in the ballroom. The dance is led by a caller. It isn’t exactly the Virginia Reel, but it’s a dance from which the Virginia Reel later developed, and it’s lots of fun. Then you eat dinner by candlelight in front of a real, wood-burning fireplace, in a room sporting period Christmas decorations. The servers are in colonial costumes, as are the strolling musicians, singing period music and carols.
Near the end of the meal, suddenly we heard a female trio singing something that didn't fit the time period: "Winter Wonderland." We looked up at this very professional sounding group, and it was guests sitting at the other end of our table. What a treat!
There were six besides us in our party, every one of them good ol’, down-home, salt-of-the-earth types, very real, very dear. We enjoyed it tremendously, even more this time than last time, and hope to do this every year from now on.
This evening I went with Vada to a concert at her church, Third Presbyterian. They have a choir of 33 persons (I counted) and tonight there were also 4 violins, 2 violas, 3 cellos, 1 bass, 1 trumpet and an organ, plus the conductor. And they performed the “Christmas” half of Messiah. I’d have to give them huge credit for audacity, if nothing else! But they also gave a very creditable performance. The talent was somewhat uneven and there were moments when you feared you were about to be embarrassed, but it never quite happened. They actually carried it off rather well! And they sang with all their hearts, which was the best part of all.
The opening words, of course, are, “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people,” and Vada decided then and there to let herself be comforted, and was. There’s something very healing about this time of year.
What struck me most was the repeated phrase, “His yoke is easy and His burden is light.” I remembered what I had written about that in the very first post of this blog:
No matter how things may appear, it is actually easier to live the Christian life (synonymous with carrying your cross) than not to. It is easier to have Christ than to feel abandoned, easier to know where you stand that to be lost and confused, easier to suffer for His sake than for your own greed, ambition and sins, easier to be His “slave" (which is to be free!) than the slave of sin. Even if we do see wicked people seeming to thrive, having it much easier than those they oppress, it is still easier to bear the pain of this world and the blessings of the next than the other way around.
Today I’d add that if you aren’t living Christ at least implicitly, you are giving expression more to your body than to your soul, and at your soul’s expense, and that, because it’s such a built-in conflict of your very being, is so much harder than letting go the outward things, or even smacking them down, and giving your innermost self scope and freedom to live and grow.
So Vada and I both left the concert blessed.
I came home and hung up Christmas stockings on the mantle: mine and Demetrios’, one for each cat, plus my grandparents’ stockings and Dad’s. Mom knitted them (except for the kitty stockings) for every member of the family and they are all variations of this pattern.
Each stocking has its owner's name and year of birth knitted in. Grandpa's says, '95, and it's hard to realize that means 1895.
In more recent years, Barbara knitted the ones for the newest family members, whether in-laws or children. Grace is finishing up one Barbara left not quite finished, for the daughter of her boss.