Some blessed gifts last a lifetime

Published 12:03 am Saturday, December 23, 2017

This is the Christmas that I’ll remember as the one for which so much was left undone; the season in which I coasted right up to this eve of Christmas Eve with nary a gift yet wrapped, and many good intentions that are still just thoughts of things I should or would like to do.

My tree finally went up last weekend, but my tables are not prettily appointed, nor have I made it from the storage room to the front door with a Christmas wreath. The office parties were only pulled off with Mr. Honey’s help, and the ironing is starting to look like a small mountain.

Yes, 2017 is the year I fell behind, but for such a good reason: I went to play with my kindergarten friends.

The idea was planted the weekend before South Alabama turned white for a brief, cold moment. Our friend John was driving in from Texas, and hoped there was chance we could get together in the space of his week-long visit.

Could we ever. John is a 13-year pancreatic cancer survivor who is dealing with some taxing side effects of his illness. We never miss a chance to see him if he feels up to coming home to us.

I think he was asking us to dinner, but who can really visit over dinner in a restaurant? So we rounded up accommodations on Lake Martin and grouped up some people who’ve known each other a very, very long time.

Were we exciting? No. But we were mighty excited to be together for warm soup, tasty snacks and close-as-family conversation at a cozy spend-the-night party that ended too soon.

More than once, John has told us he gets home-sick. Just before we left, he shared with us some poignant thoughts, an excerpt of which is shared here:

“Let me just start by stating the obvious: I miss you. We’ve been friends for 40, maybe 50 years, and although we have lived in different cities for the majority of that time, there are still days when I miss you so much the bittersweet nostalgia is so strong I can almost taste it. There are days when the loneliness that I feel for you and our friendship is a heavy and unshakable ache, like an over-worked muscle after a strenuous workout (if I actu-ally worked out, that is). And there are days when a wave of homesickness takes me by surprise with its ferocity that I’m almost knocked over …. I might even go so far to say that, most days, I am used to it. But while I may have accepted it, that doesn’t mean I don’t wish things were different. That we lived closer, that we saw each other more often, that we weren’t so busy. I still miss you. I will al-ways miss you.”

For a brief moment in time this holiday season, we stopped worrying about a son deploying with the military in January; health issues; parents; and holiday pressures. We laughed ourselves silly and cried a little bit, too.

And perhaps we were reminded of that all-important kindergarten lesson: playtime is important.

No my gifts aren’t wrapped, and my tables need some work before Christmas dinner. But I have been given the gift of lifelong friendship, and I’ll take that over a perfect holiday any day.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Michele Gerlach is publisher of The Star-News.