Monday, March 23, 2009

baby jesus

In the upstairs linen closet of my uncle's house, a skeleton reclines behind the blankets, a reminder of happy days at chiropractic school. Just one door away, in the attic room, stand the papier mache black-eyed figures of my uncle's Christmas creche. They're scary, those life-size, solemn beings, silent behind the closed door, painted eyes unblinking in the darkness.

On other Thanksgivings, Uncle Jimmy wiggles his eyebrows and his dimples wink as he laughingly urges us to get sheets and blankets from the linen closet. My sister and I, we run shrieking, racing each other up the stairs to get to the skeleton closet first. Dragging the pillows from the cupboard in the attic room under the flat eyed gaze of Mary and Joseph, of the Wise Men, that is scarier by far than exposing the skeleton as we pull sheets from the closet shelf.

On this holiday, though, my aunt's pain has stolen the play from my uncle. Cancer is eating her alive and no matter how sharp the surgeon's knife, how deep the cuts, no matter how much flesh is carved from her body, the cancer survives. It survives and thrives and the sounds of her pain send us running for the stairs.

We're running from my uncle, from the dead look of his eyes, from his quiet direction to make up our beds. We are running from her, our anguished Aunt Leona, once so beautiful and lively, with sparkling eyes and long, curling hair.

My uncle sits staring just outside her door. He's waiting, waiting for death to bring silence to this house, waiting for death to release him from the torment of watching his beloved wife die.

Faced with his suffering, with my aunt's agony, we wish for the black eyes and emotionless silence of the Baby Jesus. We want the comfort of the inanimate, of Mary who cannot feel, of Joseph, his body unchanged from one year to the next. We run to the attic room and we hide, seeking refuge in darkness, in empty figures of paper and paste and wire.

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7 Comments:

Anonymous ewe said...

I think you are very fortunate to be capable of balancing your pain with joy. I guess that is what blessings are all about.

March 24, 2009 12:05 PM  
Blogger Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

terrific

March 24, 2009 12:40 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Wow...that was powerful, beautiful...you have a way with words...

March 24, 2009 12:42 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I love the way you flip the responses to the figures, from feared objects to figures of comfort. I understand icons a little better, thanks to you. As for "Joseph, his body unchanged from one year to the next" - ouch - that's that's the masterstroke. Brilliant!

March 26, 2009 4:20 AM  
Blogger more cowbell said...

Damn. Lynette you're a writer, not a blogger.

March 27, 2009 5:08 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

She can do both!!! We can hope so!

March 29, 2009 5:20 PM  
Anonymous lynette said...

thanks for reading this one, folks. i turned this in as my first writing assignment. we'll see what she thinks of it, my feisty miss peggy :-)

March 30, 2009 4:54 PM  

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