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It's the most wonderful time of the year they say. Most of the time I agree. The other day as I drove around looking at the Christmas lights, I wished that the Christmas season lasted way beyond December. It's the one time of the year that we all agree that peace on earth is a good thing. It's when nostalgia kicks in reminding us of times around grandma's table or when the kids were small and the best thing under the tree to them, was the empty boxes and wrapping paper.
For me, it's a month that marks the loss of both parents. It's a month that has the memories of court hearings. It's the more recent memories that sometimes get in the way of the good ones. I know I'm not the only one that is here. The loss of parents is to be expected. But when you lose someone dear to you, it doesn't matter which age group they are from. Sometimes it doesn't even matter if they are related, your heart still hurts, even more at this time of the year. Thanks to Facebook's "memories" feature, the memories can be a good or a bad thing.
Two pictures popped up on my screen thanks to Facebook. One was of my dad as a little boy in a washbasin. It's a picture that one of his sisters shared. At the same time, a notice from Facebook popped up showing the number of Facebook followers on the Vinton Today page. Immediately my mind said, "I wish the guy in the picture would've gotten to see the happenings on this notice." I know what his reaction would have been. He would have shaken his head and said, "Unbelievable," as in that's pretty impressive. Then I thought, "for him to have seen that he would've had to see the circus surrounding my life the last few years, which would have made him angry, and again he would have shaken his head and said the same thing with a completely different meaning.
So anyway, the holidays always remind me that it was this time of the year, on a Sunday morning that I was supposed to play the piano for the Christmas program when my daddy died. He was a man's man, the guy who could fix anything, outrun the cops, drive a big rig and park it in the narrowest of places, tell a story of any kind and make you laugh, provider and protector. He didn't have his head in the sky, took care of anyone that needed a hand, and loved his family and friends and his church. He taught us right from wrong, I know that sounds like it conflicts with the "outrunning the cops" thing, but that was when he was a teenager. He whipped our behinds when we needed it and was "too strict" according to some of the aunts and uncles. His work ethic was also unmatched.
I remember many Saturdays riding in the pick-up alongside him going to cut wood, hauling it home unloading it, and still being excited to do it next week. I remember several trips to the lumberyard and what seemed like hours and hours of examining boards Eliminating the ones with a lot of knotholes and searching for the straightest boards. He taught me what a plumb line was. I helped him mix cement. Sometimes when I'm trying to get my two-year-old granddaughter to bed, I'll tell her stories about her great-grandpa, and she just loves it. After wanting to hear about David, Joseph, and Noah, she wants to hear Grandpa's stories.
I only remember one hug from him after childhood but there was never a doubt about his unending love for me. He was the type of man I'd wish my boys to be and my daughters to marry. He was the best of the best.
Storytelling was his forte. One of my sons has the same way of doing this. Every time he tells me about his day, I smile and hear my dad in it. For my dad, a simple trip to the store was not that. It was a trip to the store with someone doing something funny. Rather than tell you what it was, there was a long explanation that would set it up, and always it ended in laughter.
This time of the year also reminds me that I lost my mom a couple of days before Christmas and it of course ruined the festivities that year. She was known for her extravagant heart at this time of the year. Helping anyone she could find. Oh and the popcorn balls. We made them by the bags full. I mean garbage bags full. The recipe wasn't the usual corn syrup and hard to bite into popcorn balls, these were made with jello, margarine and marshmallows, and food coloring to make them a brilliant red and green or whatever other color she made. They were the best.
Those are the good memories of the season, the ones I try to hold close. But sometimes the sad stuff gets in the way and the Christmas lights look a bit blurry. This year as I compiled the list of Christmas services and fun activities, I'm always reminded by the Blue Christmas service that there are people out there struggling worse probably than I might be. I remember that Christmas wraps up a whole year where there are weeks and weeks of bad things that happen. But there is one service that opens its arms for those grieving really hard at this time of the year.
It's held this year on December 21, the details can be found here. And, if you are like most people, at least those of us that think we're "tough" we're the ones that say, "Yeah, yeah, I should go." But we won't. We should, but we won't. But do it. The older I get the more I realize I'm not as "tough" as I used to be, and sometimes it's just too much work to be "tough."
So while Christmas might be holly and jolly in one house the home next door might be struggling a little. Grief, hurt, and pain doesn't have a time limit. And while time heals all wounds, sometimes it takes a lot of time for some to heal. Take notice of those in your circle and reach out to them.
We only have a few more days until Christmas is over and the fun, the goodwill, and the "most wonderful time of the year" will be packed up until next December. But here's hoping we leave the boxes open a bit so the magic can leak out throughout 2022.
Wishing you all the merriest of Christmases and a warm hug for those of you that need a bit more understanding through this holiday season.

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John Stiegelmeyer December 14, 2021, 3:41 pm hang in there. There are always things to be grateful for - I did wake up this morning - I am able to take nourishment - our house is still in one piece. I wasn't in the path of a massive tornado that was on the ground for 200 miles. The derecho was bad but not that bad. My God grant us peace. Blessings
Cindy Reisser Finch December 14, 2021, 4:01 pm Thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories with us. I always enjoy your essays, keeping Vinton alive in my mind.
Polly Williams December 14, 2021, 5:14 pm Happy Birthday Jesus. I’m baking a cake for you.
Gerald Bates December 14, 2021, 8:15 pm Thank you for sharing this.
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