Thursday December 15, 2022
I was sick a week ago. I missed a couple of deadlines. It’s hard to type when I’m lying in bed, under the covers, fully dressed, trying to figure out why I can’t figure anything out anymore.
Medically, I just had a cold. A bad cold. Perhaps the worst cold I have had in ten years, since I was much younger, stronger, with much more stamina and resistance to a cold.
I feared it might be Covid-19, despite a full house of vaccinations. A Rapid Test proved negative.
I thought of Covid because I had read that Covid can scramble one’s brain, randomly disrupting neural synapses that have formed a reliable communications channel for decades.
So that one suddenly can’t remember how to do the simplest things.
Poking through “brain fog”
They call it “brain fog.”
I lay in bed for three hours one day trying to schedule my pills and medications, combining the new stuff with the stuff I take regularly to prevent heart attacks, etc. One medication four times a day. Another, three times a day. Another, two times a day. Still another that shouldn’t be taken within two hours of any other medication.
The permutations and combinations baffled me.
I had a similar problem when I drove my cat to the vet, for a long-scheduled appointment. I’ve been driving for 70 years. The actions required at intersections have long been absorbed into muscle memory. But on that relatively short drive, I made three mistakes.
I didn’t do anything wrong. Just ten feet too late. My mind’s commands had to find new routes to my hands and feet.
I didn’t cause any accidents. I did quit driving for the rest of the week.
But by far the most disorienting event was trying to pull on my socks.
I sat on a chair on my closet, as usual. As I tried to pull up my left sock, I felt myself tipping. I didn’t know how to stop it. My muscles didn’t react automatically.
In slow motion, I continued tipping over. Until I hit the floor. Where I couldn’t figure out how to roll over.
So, dumbly, I kept on trying to pull up my sock. On the floor.
I could see my thumb and forefinger fumbling for the fabric. They didn’t act like my familiar fingers. They trembled, almost palsied. They wouldn’t close. The top of the sock was just beyond them, but they couldn’t – wouldn’t – extend an extra half-inch to grasp it.
It was my hand. But it wasn’t my hand. It no longer did what I wanted.
Yes, I did manage to pull that sock on. I did get up off the floor. Since that episode, I’m able to stand on my own two feet again, without falling over. Things have returned to normal.
But I’m still haunted by those minutes when I watched a hand that was mine, but was not mine, fumble helplessly with a task it couldn’t grasp.
I’ve watched the very old endlessly picking pieces of invisible lint off a blanket. I’ve thought, “That’ll never be me.”
Now I know that someday it will be me.
And the owner of that hand is probably thinking, “This isn’t me. I’m still fine, inside. That’s not really me.”
Copyright © 2022 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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Last week I wrote about a little ceramic Christmas tree that sits in my front hall, welcoming me home. Several of you recognized the tree; you either have one, or once had one.
Robert Caughell noted, “Many people in my home town have the same type of tree that they light up for Christmas.”
Randy Hall too: “Jim, as you described your ceramic Christmas given to you by Lorraine, I thought of the one sitting by our front door – the one that is a sister to yours. It belonged to my wife’s grandmother, was passed down to Jane’s mother, and now to us. When Jane unpacks it with care each Christmas, there is a look of reverence and joy on her face. As with you, it reminds her of someone who loved her and she loved in return.
“A landfill is too undignified a resting place for the tree. Perhaps you will pass it on to your daughter or a friend. We all need a little light in our lives.”
Pat Graham agreed about the trees ultimate destination: “I loved the story about your Christmas Tree. I would hate to see it end up in the landfill. It is as Special as Lorraine and You. I think you should select a Special Person to leave it to. If not family, a grandchild, a special friend who is much younger, or someone who needs some light in their life.”
Pat then wrote about “an iron rooster weathervane” given to her in 1997 “by the Brother I wished I had.” Pat ended, “Your column reminded me to think about the Special Person I need to pass it on to, and to ensure it goes to that person.”
Tom Watson and Isabel Gibson both remembered the column from the first time I ran it.
“A beautiful story,” Tom wrote. “Thanks again.”
Isabel wrote, “I remember this column and love it all over again. May we all shine for someone, and may we all see others shine for us.”
Jim and Betty Henderschedt empathized with downsizing: “Your article on your Christmas tree resonated with what we settled for when we had to move to our home in a continuing care community. No room for a real tree and whatever we get has to fit into an unoccupied empty space. The solution to our quandary collapses almost flat. Now quite what we want, but after 7 years we are used to it and are a tad more serious with the decorations.”
June Tink: Sorry to hear you have been unwell and hope your light is shining brightly now! I want to thank you for all the insights and inspiration you have given to me over the past few years. I hope you know how important you are to so many of us who receive your letters. I pass them on to friends who are always appreciative.
Like June, Vic Sedo sends my columns around to friends and family. One of them m Dawn Parker, replied to him: “Thanks for this, Vic. I really am touched by it. My Mum made us each a Christmas tree. Everyone chose a green tree with multi-coloured lights, except me. I chose a white tree with blue lights. Later everyone asked: ‘Why didn't I choose that?’ It wears well. …t this is so snowy and soothing.”
Dawn, in turn, sent the column around to all her family.
Psalm 80 reminds me that I've never been poor and homeless at Christmas. The ostentatious flaunting of wealth and family must be very painful for those who have neither.
1 Can't you hear us knocking on your door?
You stand inside, laughing in the firelight with your family;
You toy with your tinsel and your ornaments.
Can't you hear us?
2 We are the lost and the lonely, out in the cold.
3 We long for something to celebrate too.
4 How long can you ignore us?
How long can you close your eyes and ears to our isolation?
5 Hunger gnaws on our bones;
we sip the salt of our tears.
6 We are an embarrassment.
People turn away from us.
People laugh and joke; they don't even see us out here.
We are invisible.
7 Let us live too.
17 We have nothing with which to thank you.
But God will reward you in ways you cannot imagine.
Through us, God will heal your blindness;
You will touch a world you have never imagined.
18 You will not want to go back to your old ways.
Respond to our pleas, and see for yourself.
19 Let us live too. Please, let us live.
Apparently the print version of my paraphrases of most of the psalms in the Revised Common Lectionary is now out of print. But you can still order an e-book version of Everyday Psalms from Wood Lake Publishing, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 1-800-663-2775
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Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca He’s also relatively inexpensive!
I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also has lots of beautiful photos. Especially of birds.
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ALVA WOOD’S ARCHIVE
I have acquired (don’t ask how) the complete archive of the late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures. I’ve put them on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. You’re welcome to browse. No charge. (Although maybe if I charged a fee, more people would find the archive worth visiting.)