As I move through my day, fully aware that it is five days before Christmas, the notion of connections sits in the back of my mind like wallpaper on my desktop computer. It holds everything important to me, frames it all. Christmas cards have been sent to those whom I am connected by blood and genes, friendship and concern, history and love. I have spent time perusing catalogs and websites in an effort to find a token that will accurately convey my feelings to friends and family.
Spending the last several days with my mother, sister and brother gave me the opportunity to reconnect and watch my daughters forge ever-stronger relationships with people whom I love. As my stoic brother's face cracked into a huge grin, he wrapped his arms around my youngest and wrestled with her. Opening gifts quickly turned into a 'snowball fight' with crumpled wrapping paper, adults and children alike giggling and ducking behind furniture to avoid flying gift wrap.
Moving on to my father's house, my urgency to add layers to the ties that bind becomes even more important. I scanned his face for any sign of illness, anything that might betray the eight bb-sized tumors embedded in his brain. My girls piled into his lap and began tickling his ears, his chin, pulling his slippers and socks off, hooting with laughter. He has regained the weight he lost after battling chemotherapy for three months. His face no longer looks as though it was dusted with flour, and he moves through the house like a young man again. Late night talks revealed his fears, though. He has seen the brain scan and the glowing cells that spell disaster. He knows that radiation doesn't work on brain tumors. He is on his way to the university hospital to look for new treatments, experimental procedures that might buy him some more time.
The girls and I arrived home yesterday afternoon, eager to put the house in order and greet Bubba as he came home from work. The last of the gifts were wrapped and placed under the tree for the cat to play with. The girls put their things away and settled back into their bedrooms. I was relieved to be in my own space, relaxing on the couch and stroking the dog's silky fur. I was so pleased to have had the time to spend re-connecting. The phone rang. My mother was calling to say that my grandfather who has been battling cancer for two years is on the verge of death. His last coherent act was to sign Christmas cards to each and every person he knows, including one each for my girls, addressed to them individually. He then laid down in his bed and slipped into a coma. They don't expect him to live out the weekend.
Connections. Ties. Relationships. I can't imagine the world without my grandfather in it. I am incredibly sad that his end is imminent. But I know that the connection will not be lost. The connection does not rely on physical existence to remain. The work we did to establish and maintain the mutual love and respect we had for each other is not lost. I see my grandfather in his children, my mother and aunts and uncle. I see him in the connections they have with each other and me. The memories I have of him will last a lifetime. I am reminded that the efforts I make to connect with others are important and lasting. Every time I strengthen the ties between myself and another, I will be rewarded by finding myself more intimately connected to the world around me.