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Friday, May 6, 2016

Gray Matter: Christmas Letter follow-up

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

After recently expressing my opinion of Christmas Letters,  I began examining the contents of my mailbox a bit more closely.  I was pleased to note that a majority of the cards that came were of a religious nature.  I was pleased, too, when the letters accompanying them fulfilled my expectations.  The majority were from my peers who seem to have accepted the demands of aging, overcome its disadvantages, and carried on with grace and humor.

A cousin from Arizona observed, "One nice thing about growing older -- you and your children eventually wind up on the same side of the generation gap."  It was he who told of traveling across the country to attend his 30th Elderhostel.  He had also flown to the wedding of a great-nephew, who with his bride, is now attending college in Maine.  Right now, this cousin is in Florida, celebrating Christmas with a daughter's family and attending his great-grandson's wedding .

There were other trips reported.  One friend took an Alaskan Cruise with her three daughters.  A cousin, who is a generation younger than I, had led several house-building mission trips to Honduras.  Meanwhile, he had worked all year on an intensive Spanish course so he could communicate with the workers in their native tongue.

Grand (and great-grand) children's activities were reported, but with no unseemly bragging.  One friend's grandson had gone on a film-making trip to Siberia.   The son of another couple, friends from Texas, has accepted a professorship at Pepperdine University, and their daughter has become a partner in an Austin law firm, while her husband conducts research at the University of Texas.

That clever mother and wife reported, too, on their community's 150th anniversary.  She told  of a  white-bearded stranger who'd appeared mysteriously in  the area.  He was alternately called Moses, Rabbi and Santa, but after the celebration  in which he'd won the Best Beard Contest, "he turned back into the same old Warren" (her husband).

Another dear friend was able to use a light touch while reporting a series of difficult family situations.  He stated that he, "who nearly needs novacaine to trim his toenails," was all admiration for the way his wife was successfully handling the pain and crisis of cancer treatments.  He went on to report a series of family events, including a couple of weddings, which necessitated his getting new threads. He said, when he asked the clerk in a local men's  store what he had for a man "with my build", the salesman answered, "Pity." 

That, of course, did nothing for his self-esteem, but he claimed it helped some  when he walked out without buying anything, muttering just loud enough for the guy to hear,  "May the elevator of life give you the shaft!"

Through the Stephen Ministry in her church, another friend who's my age, gives emotional support  to a 95-year-old facing end-of-life issues.  Still another, a retired school administrator, continues spending time each winter at an Indian school in New Mexico.  His son now drives for him, but his service at the school is still welcomed and  appreciated. 

A cousin reported his activity in a prison ministry, and yet another great friend continues volunteering at the local Community Theater with  roles in three plays, three short films and a commercial. 

Perhaps the wisest words of all were from a college classmate who wrote that she and her husband have adopted the following for their motto for 2007,  "Don't let our aches get in the way of our alleluias!" 

With friends like that, I will continue looking forward to those ubiquitous letters just  as long as I am able to receive them.