Only one thing was missing that Christmas, but it was all that mattered.
My three grown children, their spouses and their kids crowded around the tree in the family room, opening presents. Laughter, conversation and the occasional shriek of delight from a grandchild filled the room. Soon the floor was strewn with wrapping paper. Just like Christmases past.
From my spot in the middle of the sofa, I gazed at my family. I was surrounded by people I loved, people who loved me. But without Shirley, my wife of 58 years, I felt empty. Joyless. She’d been my everything. There was part of me that couldn’t wait until everyone left and I was alone. Alone with my grief and my memories. It had been seven months since I’d lost Shirley, seven lonely months. I’d tried to throw myself into my work, my writing and speaking, telling everyone—including myself—that I was okay, praying that God would make it so.
Come Christmas, sadness hit me like a shock wave. Feelings I didn’t know what to do with, how to even put into words. Shirley would have been able to help, to draw it out of me. There was no one I’d ever been able to talk to so easily. She had been the one person in my life that I could be completely open and honest with, totally vulnerable with. I didn’t have that kind of relationship with anyone else. Not my closest friends, not my children. I didn’t want to burden them. Instead I withdrew into myself.
Finally there were no more presents left to open except for one. The room got quiet. My granddaughter Layla, a budding artist, handed me a slim, beautifully wrapped gift. The littlest grandchildren crowded around to see what could be inside. I tore open the paper. There, staring back at me, was Shirley. Layla had taken one of my favorite photos of her grandmother and done a line drawing. It was exquisite, but seeing it made me miss Shirley even more. “Thanks,” I murmured. I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I hugged Layla and awkwardly met the expectant faces of my family. Finally my daughter Cecile announced it was time for dinner.
I picked at the sweet potato soufflé and corn bread dressing my children had prepared. Shirley’s sweet potato soufflé was a favorite of mine, a dish she made at least once a month for me. Now it just didn’t taste the same. I couldn’t take it anymore. I excused myself and slipped out of the house, desperate to be alone.
My feet automatically headed for a park about a mile away. How many times had Shirley and I taken this route? Walking had been one of our cherished rituals, a chance to talk about our days and our feelings.
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I was happily married, happily employed, just plain happy. Until the accident
Meet the musicians who refused to let the music die
Grounded in Love
In the heart of the South, a church does the hard work of racial reconciliation
Five Quilts for Five Sisters
We thought we knew everything about our mother
Find the poetry in your life
A Soldier's Vision
He lay wounded in the Iraqi desert, ready to accept his death. Then he saw and heard his future
A Lesson in Letting Go
Maybe 50 feet from the road, I noticed my Lab, Clyde, wasn’t with me. How could that be? He never wandered off
Their life felt in free fall. So this mom and daughter set out on an epic quest
A World War II veteran gravely ill with Covid-19, an Army social worker on his first deployment and the relationship they forged
Love's Pure Light
Ease back in front of the fire and let the singer from Checotah tell you about the gift we can all give at Christmas
SHRIVELED SHIRLEY'S FACE-LIFT FAILS!
Beloved Oscar winner unrecognizable at 86
WICKED WILLIE'S CHEATIN' HEART
Nelson reveals he couldn’t stay faithful
The Dirt on Dirty Shirley
GEORGE LYNCH DISCUSSES THE FATE OF HIS CLASSIC-ERA GUITARS, HIS NEVER-ENDING LED ZEP LOVE AND DIRTY SHIRLEY, HIS NEW ALBUM (AND PROJECT) WITH CROATIAN-BORN SINGER DINO JELUSIC
Broken Novels, Ruptured Worlds
A Conversation with Michelle de Kretser
A User's Guide to Living - Part 6 - TRUTH & AUTHENTICITY
DAAJI continues his series on everyday living, introducing the fifth universal principle of the User’s Guide, which is about truthfulness and acceptance of whatever hardships come our way. As a starting point, this fifth principle helps us to live a contented, peaceful life, with acceptance and compassion. Then, as we progress, it guides us towards the ultimate nature of Truth and Reality.
THE FOREVER HOUSE
A DIY couple help an already intact house embrace its age—and the new-old kitchen is an achievement!
Going Over the Line
In Josephine Decker’s new film, Shirley (and in life generally), being a muse is a trap.
DESIGNING for outdoor spaces SITE PLANNING AND THE ARCHITECTURE
Site planning and a consistent architectural vision made sense of this unique double lot near the sea in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Architect Frank Shirley “integrated two properties and made this a special place to be,” the homeowner says. Outbuildings, two of them newly designed and built, are critical to the overall design, providing not only additional space but also protection from the street. New porches, formal elements of hardscape, and plantings tie it together.
Passion Wins The Day
In 2019, two Old West Saviors stood out for their dedication to the preservation of our Western heritage.
IN HER NEW BOOK, IN THE DREAM HOUSE, CARMEN MARIA MACHADO REIMAGINES THE MEMOIR FORM BY EXAMINING HER PERSONAL STORY OF DOMESTIC ABUSE USING DIFFERENT NARRATIVE TROPES AND SHINES NEW LIGHT ON THE HISTORY AND REALITY OF ABUSE IN QUEER RELATIONSHIPS.