I took a sabbatical from writing. I’m not sure if an itinerant blogger can take a sabbatical. I think it takes gainfully employment to sabbat yourself away from your job. I am employed but I can’t afford to take a sabbatical away from work. I did stop writing for a while. It took too much to energy to string letters into words.
Starting at Thanksgiving and plodding through all the events until January 15, the anniversary of Jack’s death, I couldn’t write much more than “I am sad.” I felt like Joe Btfsplk, the fellow in Lil Abner cartoons who sauntered around with the cloud over his head. Just say his name in a loud voice. “Btfsplk!” That sound describes the way I’ve been feeling.
I don’t think I was a drag on the moods of those around me. I have been sober long enough to know that acting as if I am happy will generally cheer me up. I thought I was a functional alcoholic for a long time and I was wrong for most of that time. I am pretty sure I was a functional sad woman. Sitting in front of the computer, looking at a blank WordPress page, I just couldn’t put together the words. My holidays became hollow days. Looking back, hallowed is the right word. They weren’t hollow at all.
We, my sisters and I, have one remaining relative from our parents’ generation: Mose. Mose celebrated her 88th birthday in 2012 and will mark her 62nd anniversary of being a nun in the order of Incarnate Word Sisters of Charity in May. She’s remarkably healthy with the exception of some heart trouble that’s gotten worse over these past few years. It doesn’t seem to slow her, though. She was doing a jig at Travis’ Brackenridge Park birthday party last December.
Christmas Eve we got word that Mose suffered a heart attack in Galveston which left her and another sister stranded at a strange town in a strange hospital. The Galveston doctor recommended surgery. (Not here! I want my doctor to do surgery if I need it.) (You can’t wait. YOU NEED TO HAVE THE SURGERY HERE.) (No. I’m going back to San Antonio.) After the doctor told her she needed an ambulance to transport her, she replied that her convent couldn’t afford such extravagance and said her family would come get her. She signed herself out of the hospital AMA; Bob and I picked the two nuns up in Galveston and drove them back to S.A.
Mose was more fragile than I’ve ever seen her. She rarely weeps from sadness; her tears come from frustration and anger born out of situations that she can’t control. They don’t come often. To see her crying as we loaded her luggage into the car was frightening. Would we be able to get her back to San Antonio? Bob’s mother got us a GPS for Christmas and I identified hospital ER’s on the route. Mose rested in the backseat while her friend and I watched her breathing.
We got her home without visiting an emergency room. When we were leaving, Mose handed me a wrapped gift. (Take this. There’s a funny story to it that I’ll tell you later.) The gift was a Serenity prayer sun catcher which is special because I am a member of AA and we say that prayer at just about every meeting. I couldn’t imagine what might be funny about the prayer or the suncatcher, but I set it in the window. The story behind it, when she felt well enough to tell it to me, heightened its value to me:
The year I celebrated my 25th anniversary of taking my vows, I went to a retreat that centered around Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. It was after I’d had that terrible car wreck and I couldn’t get past the pain in my shattered leg. That prayer was such a comfort that I used it on the prayer cards which were in the invitations I sent to family and friends. Because of the prayer cards, someone gave me that Serenity prayer sun catcher. At the reception following Mass, I kept getting the question, “Are you a friend of Bill, Sister?” I smiled and nodded until someone exclaimed, “I didn’t know you were a friend of Bill W, Sister! Curiosity got the best of me and I asked, “Bill who?” That was when I found out that Alcoholics Anonymous likes the Serenity prayer, too!
A few days after New Year’s, GE and the kids came for a late Christmas. While they were there, Betsy the Blind Bosty died. She had been fading for a few months and it wasn’t a surprise, but she was a sweet little old dog. I found her on the Crosstown Expressway after traffic stopped to let the old blind girl stagger across to the median. I never found her owner, but I believe she’d spent her first 14 or 15 years with an elderly person who passed. Perhaps she got out of the yard looking for him. That’s the story I told the other dogs, anyway.
Bob and the kids had dug a grave in my backyard, GE bought a bouquet of flowers. Bobby had wrapped her in a floral sheet like a shroud. We had a funeral service. I told them that I imagined Betsy in heaven, now a young and healthy puppy girl, bounding across the fields to her owner, himself a young and healthy man. Sophia exclaimed, “Betsy. I loved you!” GE said a few words. Bob, who is the softest hearted person I know, had tears streaming down his face. Travis, at 3, wasn’t sure what was happening or what we were doing, but knew that it was his turn to speak. Peering into the open grave, he said in a soft, gentle voice: Betsy. You are dead.
I’ve been smiling as I think about Serenity prayers, old nuns, heavenly dog and owner reunions, and small children.
Hallowed be my life.