Starting right around Thanksgiving every year we start getting the first Christmas cards from some of our family and friends. That’s a signal to me that it’s time to start writing our annual Christmas letter. The last three years I done so between the 12th and 14th of December, so I’m right on schedule this year (it’s the 12th as I’m writing this).
Chris came home on schedule from Kuwait at the beginning of the year. But we still had our annual family vacation at Pinebrook without him as he volunteered to serve at the Boy Scout World Jamboree in West Virginia this past summer. Since the World Jamboree is only held every four years and moves to a new country each time, this was only the second time it was held in the US, the last one being in 1967. So being able to participate is literally a once-in-a-lifetime event. In 2020 we finally hope to have the whole family together again.
We also had a repeat of last year with having one of our grandchildren from Florida stay with us for a month. This time it was Tiernan who spent the month of May here in PA. Donna flew down to FL at the beginning of the end of April for a few days, then accompanied him on the flight here. I flew back to FL with him at the end of the month.
Before Chris left for Kuwait his employer had changed to a 9-hour day work schedule with every other Friday off. Chris liked that arrangement and so upon his return asked to move to only a 32-hour week with every Friday off. His pay is reduced accordingly, but his benefits, being all through the military, are not impacted. Family is more important to him than the higher income, so he has his priorities in the right order.
On the PA front, our youngest grandson, Asher, turned five this summer and so is now in Kindergarten. This means that he takes the bus with his older brothers and Donna and I have our days “free” for the first time. When the both of us “retired” from our paying jobs, we first got involved in elder care as she was in Michigan taking care of her mother, then after she passed away we almost immediately got involved in childcare. While we still have to get the boys off to school in the morning and pick them up at the bus stop in the afternoon, we can now go to things like our monthly Thursday Fellowship (seniors group) at church.
But life still hasn’t slowed down!
We’ve avoided any further medical emergencies this year. But the aches and pains of getting older continue. Donna got hearing aids for both ears a few years ago, but even with them she has trouble hearing – especially in crowds. And when she doesn’t “have her ears in”, like first thing in the morning or when one of the batteries dies, I have to talk clearly and distinctly as especially the initial sounds of words are the most difficult to distinguish.
Earlier this year I decided to volunteer for an Alzheimer’s study. I’ve written about that just a few weeks ago, so you can read about it here - https://ramblinrussells.blogspot.com/2019/12/giving-back-medical-studies.html
In August, our long-time cat, Cookie, apparently fell off the roof when chasing a bat and ruptured her bladder. After an x-ray and other diagnostics, we had to have her put to sleep. This was the first loss of a pet that affected me – most of our prior pets were really Donna’s, but Cookie had been my companion during the long months when I spent my days with my foot up as it was healing last year. We were able to hold her while the vet administered the drug to end her life.
After a few weeks of grieving, Donna convinced me to get a replacement for Cookie. I was reluctant at first, but we ended up adopting a cat who the animal sanctuary did not think was going to adjust to a new home. For the first 24 hours after we let Penguin out of the carrier we thought about using the name Phantom instead as she holed up behind the sofa. But with love and attention, she is now well adjusted and often sleeps on the bed with us at night.
Meanwhile, we also added a young kitten to Kim’s household – Sweet Pea. She is a great companion for Mocha and the two of them often tussle on the floor or chase each other around the house.
We’ve realized for a while that eventually our housing situation will need to change. Taking care of this large house is too much work for two aging individuals like ourselves. One possibility is for us to do a garage conversion in Kim’s house across the lane and convert it into an apartment. But there is very little storage in that small house which has to hold four growing boys. So we just added a large shed outside that we can use for storage – a picture of it is below, they just completed it today. It’s 24’x32’ with a 2nd floor and gambrel roof. Part of the upstairs will be a play area for the boys and part of the downstairs will be for bicycles and yard equipment which is currently in an old small shed that is in need of replacement. So, as we begin to empty out our current house, we can put the things that we want to keep in the new shed – alas more work for me in putting up shelving and carrying things! But I still have the strength to do that type of thing as long as I don’t spend too much time on my feet and re-aggravate my foot again.
Life goes on and we get older. But God never changes. So, in this Christmas season we hope that you may have a relationship with Him like we have. Then we can all be together for eternity!
Alan & Donna