I went to two wakes this week, one for my father’s cousin E and one for one of my father’s best friends, P. The second wake was larger and had a winding line, like a gruesome ride at Disney culminating in a coffin and the grieving family.
While waiting in line, my father discovered he knew a woman next to us, and they started a conversation. They both had known P (and his wife, who suffers from debilitating medical conditions herself) for a long time.
At one point, my father said to the woman: One thing about P’s wife- no matter what, she never complains. A virtue. A dying breed of person. A different generation. Something. And it’s true. She doesn’t complain, though she’s had plenty to complain about. She’s as strong and as brave as they come.
Later I was talking to another of my father’s friends. He and his wife were asking about Jonah, and I started to cry a little – I had already been crying – and then I just stopped myself and smiled. I related the story of the conversation my father’d just had about the widow - she never complains – and I told him, “Man, they’re never going to say that about me. All I do is complain!”
“Yeah, at your wake they’re gonna say: one thing about her, she complained all the time,” he answered, and we laughed.
com·plain (from dictionary.com)
verb (used without object)
1. to express dissatisfaction, pain, uneasiness, censure, resentment, or grief; find fault: He complained constantly about the noise in the corridor.
2. to tell of one’s pains, ailments, etc.: to complain of a backache.
3. to make a formal accusation: If you think you’ve been swindled, complain to the police.
I complain a lot. I become bitter. And I get jealous. Especially at this exact time of year, what with all the “holiday joy” of families and their regular kids. I thank God for everything I have, and yet I can’t help the lump in my throat when I go on Facebook and see all the Christmas cookie recipes, the children participating in traditional activities with Advent calendars, lighting menorahs, captured in happy color-coordinated moments for Christmas cards, decorating, sitting on Santa’s lap, etc. etc. etc. I know a lot of it is illusion, and there is suffering all over the place. I know – or I think I know.
If I had no kids at all it would be different. If I had other children it would be different. Different-better? Different-worse? I don’t want any more glimpses into all the awesome little family Christmases. God forgive me but I don’t. I should probably just stop looking at all the Facebook posts for a while. Better yet, I should get over myself and focus on being happy for others.
Because of my circumstances and not really from some religious fervor, I focus more on Joseph and Mary – her laboring and giving birth to Jesus, and laying him in a manger. I love the idea of a miracle-star in the sky, and the little drummer boy, and three wise men. (Surely there was at least one wise woman?) All the animals. Shepherds. Everything about it. A Lord born poor. As poor as poor gets. It’s amazing if you really think about it, whatever your beliefs.
Of course I love that there will be presents for Jonah-Boo, and I hope he enjoys them. Andy will bring him up to my mom’s, just like on Thanksgiving. We can hope for a calm Christmas, but it’s always the spin of a roulette wheel. Place your bets.
I wonder if Mary complained. The Bible doesn’t tell us nearly enough about Mary, if you ask me.
Yesterday I took this snippet of video to try to perhaps capture a little more of how Jonah acts and what he understands. We give him black soda and other treats on Saturdays she says defensively.
Boo was pretty good, doling out his kisses and hugs with giggling smiles and lots of requests for car ride. But he did have his bath and we squeezed in some Train on TV and some Oompa Oompa.
Then I came home and there were the Facebook posts of happy children hanging ornaments and helping bake gingerbread men, and the jealousy rises like bile. I see it, I know it’s there, I know it’s dumb, I hate it.
I choke on it.
So this morning Father N sent me an e-mail from El Salvador, where he is working for CFCA. (It’s the only charity of its kind where you can sponsor an elderly person if you want). Father has his stipend check sent directly to Friends of Fontaine in Haiti. I have a feeling he is very inspired by Pope Francis. What a wonderful thing.
Anyway, here is the short video he attached…he met this particular woman during his stay and danced with her at one of the senior events.
I don’t much feel like complaining anymore.