On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Archive for December, 2020

How COVID didn’t steal Christmas | by Linda Brendle

I’ve loved Dr. Seuss since I heard him read “Horton Hears a Who” on the radio before I started to school. One of my favorites, especially this time of the year, is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” – both the book and the movie. I love this quote that comes when the Grinch hears the sounds of Christmas bells and joyful singing even after he has stolen all the decorations, gifts, and goodies.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?

It came without ribbons. It came without tags.

It came without packages, boxes or bags.

And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.

What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

The Christmas season started late for David and me when our ten-day quarantine began on November 28. We both did a little online shopping while we stayed in, but not enough to get us in the spirit. It was the texts, calls, and emails from friends checking to see if we needed anything that brought a little cheer to our COVID jail.

Leaving the house after ten days was enough to put us both in a better mood, and the Christmas lights that had appeared since our last outing kindled a few warm, fuzzy feelings. I still wasn’t up to teaching the ladies’ Wednesday morning Bible Study the first week, but when we gathered the following week, it was like Christmas to see everyone again. Then, Joanie gave me a bag with some hand cream that smelled so good – and I could actually smell it – and some fudge Charlie had made. Her sweet gesture really woke up my holiday feelings, and the fudge started visions of sugar plums dancing in David’s head.

That Friday, the Rains County Leader hosted its annually open house, and we stopped by to admire the amazing Christmas village and to say hello. While we were there, Bill and Susan came in, and they had news of a Christmas miracle. Early in the year, before the virus became a real pandemic, Bill developed a persistent cough. He had a multitude of tests, including several nose swabs, with no definitive diagnosis. His cough became so serious that he was hospitalized, and then his kidneys shut down and he was put on dialysis. The short version is that, after several weeks of out-patient dialysis, his kidneys began working again. And the day before the open house, his port was removed and he was officially free.

Bill’s miracle along with two other friends who were released from the hospital after a few scary days fully awakened the last bits of Christmas spirit that were hiding in the corners. The next morning I woke up with “O Come All Ye Faithful” running through my head. I went online and found a half-hour Christmas video by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra – nice background music for breakfast. Later in the day, I pulled out the little metal Christmas tree I use to display bookmarks when I have a booth at a show or market. It’s leans a bit to the right and looks like something out of a Charlie Brown special, but with a few of my angels hanging from its curlicue branches and a few candles surrounding it, it looks rather festive sitting on the counter between the living room and the kitchen. Best of all, Kitty has no interest in it whatsoever.

Our home group met Friday night for the first time in several weeks. As usual, we had lots of food, and then we had a white elephant gift exchange, the kind that involves stealing gifts and can get pretty lively. Ours involved lots of laughter spurred on by the antics of David who had been chosen to be the M.C. of the game. But most of all, there was a lot of love.

There was a lot of love at church on Sunday morning, too, and if felt like Christmas. It’s about time since this is Christmas week. It won’t be the same rush of conflicting events that require hard choices and diplomatic explanations of your absence at some of them, but we will still celebrate. Tuesday night Perkins is coming over to watch the last episode of Season 2 of The Mandalorian – and he’s grilling steaks. And Thursday night we’ll attend the Christmas Eve service at Believers’ Baptist. David and I will celebrate Christmas morning together and then prepare lunch for the same neighbors who shared our Thanksgiving meal.

This won’t be a “normal” Christmas, but Christmas will come nonetheless. COVID may have stolen the Christmas concerts, the holiday parades and craft shows, and some of the things that come from the store. Some family gatherings may be smaller, including only the nuclear instead of the extended group, and there may even be empty places at some tables. But the music in the soul, the love in the heart, and the joy in the indomitable spirit is still there. And the Christmas Child can still be found by those who seek him.

Merry Christmas from the Brendles

Kitty’s Story

Fallen Angel Salvage

Tatia’s Tattoo

Mom’s Long Goodbye

A Long and Winding Road

I Love Christmas Lights | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on December 15, 2020:

One of my many favorite parts of Christmas is the outdoor displays of lights, but apparently not everyone

feels the same way. Last week a resident of a small town in Minnesota received an anonymous letter claiming that her very understated decorations were “a reminder of systemic biases against our neighbors who don’t celebrate Christmas or who can’t afford to put up lights of their own.” Not that I have a strong opinion about this new issue that has suddenly gone viral, but that is just wrong.

I grew up in what would have been considered an upper lower class or lower middle class neighborhood. There were a few families that hung a string or two of lights along the front eaves or around the porch columns, but ours wasn’t one of them. Dad worked two jobs year round, and since one of them was at the Post Office, he worked lots of overtime during the holidays. He was too tired to climb on the roof for anything short of a major leak, and any money left over at the end of the month was earmarked for clothes, music lessons, or a summer vacation.


Looking for Christmas Spirit | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on December 8, 2020:

David and I have been in COVID jail since the Saturday after Thanksgiving when I realized I couldn’t smell anything. I didn’t have any other symptoms, but I tested positive, so we were advised to quarantine for ten days. At first, I was thankful that David had found a new WiFi provider and we were once again able to watch TV, but after a while, I wasn’t so sure.

We caught up on videos of several YouTubers we follow, and we watched the Madalorian episodes we had missed, but after that the viewing choices were pretty grim. The results of the presidential election seemed to be the main focus of every broadcast, and from the reports and forecasts I heard, no one is going to be happy regardless of the eventual outcome. Let’s just say it wasn’t the kind of programming that gives the viewer a warm and fuzzy Christmas feeling.


The End of a Family Tradition | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on December 1, 2020:

Facebook sometimes brings sad news, and Sunday was one of those times. AJ’s Fish House, a community institution for twenty years, announced that its doors will close effective December 1. This is not only a great loss to fried fish fans in East Texas but also to my family.

When David and I moved here ten years ago, we were introduced to the tradition of celebrating Aunt Fay’s birthday at the all-you-can-eat restaurant that specialized in all things fried along with a cobbler bar guaranteed to give a sugar rush to all who partook. Each January, on the Saturday closest to the 20th, Fay’s children, grandchildren, and various hangers on gathered from as close as Emory and as far away as Houston to celebrate the life of this amazing woman.

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