Ramblings from the Cove...
By Lars Gren
It has been my wont to send out a type of ‘end of year letter’ with a bit of this and that as to our lives together—that is, Elisabeth’s and mine—but of course that all changed on the 15th of June last year. So now, as I sit, the sole lodger in the house that we built together, I question myself, “What did I do in these past nearly 12 months?” Has it gone slow? No, on the contrary when I arise on Monday morning and say, ”five good days ahead of me and I’ll get much done” but it does not turn out that way rather as days move along the refrain is “tomorrow it will be different.” It is a bit like that dreadful song from the play Annie, "Tomorrow, Tomorrow"—no, we did not see it-- in fact in 38 years I believe that we saw four plays—one was "The Nutcracker Suite" another on Broadway with the remaining two in the local summer stock playhouse or whatever the name is.
As some of you know we did have some years with winters in warmer climes. Three of those years we revelled visiting with Bert and Colleen Elliot in Trujillo, Peru where the set day was the reading of the Daily Light, prayer, breakfast then a hymn sing with Colleen playing the piano and singing with great gusto or would that be ‘profundo?’ In either circumstance, it could be heard on the street through closed doors. Following this would be reading time of books by Christian authors and at times including E. E. titles. This would carry us nearly up to lunch which was our main meal of the day, with me hoping for goat. Following a siesta would be another period of reading. The George Mac Donald novels were a favorite, and as both Bert and Colleen enjoyed being read to, I was often the one to do so.
Afterwards Elisabeth and I would have a stroll side-by-side, but in the last two years of visiting, I would stroll and Elisabeth would be in the wheelchair, while Bert and Colleen tended to business.
It would have happily gone on had not Bert had a recurrence of cancer which ended his life. There was a memorial service for him in Portland, OR and Colleen would attend. After spending a few days with her sister-in-law, Jane Hawthorne, in Wheaton, they both flew to Portland for the memorial. Three days prior to the memorial, they went out for dinner. On their return to the house, they had taken two or three steps up the staircase to the old Elliot home, when Colleen lost her balance falling backwards and striking her head on the concrete drive. She made it to the hospital but died, I believe, two days later. So in God’s providence and mercy the memorial service turned out to be for the both of them. It had been while she was at Wheaton with Jane, some days prior to their flight to Portland, that I had my last phone conversation with her. As we spoke I told her that I would be booking our tickets to come as we had been doing, as soon as I knew she was home. Her reply to me was, “Oh, it will be so good to see you again!” I’ll never forget the warmth in her voice in expressing that desire. None had greater love and enjoyment of people than Bert and Colleen.
That event is what prompted us to think of Florida as an escape from the winter weather. When I rang to inquire if they had an available room that I could have, the answer was positive and so began four years of warm winters in Minneola, which is a bit west of Orlando at The African Inland Mission Station. It is a lovely spot overlooking the large lake Minneola with single as well as duplex and triplex units that are attractively placed and encompassed by 100 acres with mature trees and in one area a good sized stand of pin oaks. Each year we had the same rooms in the three story main building that fronts the property and includes a dining hall for those who are past being able to live alone. Elisabeth’s caregivers had an adjoining suite so help was near when needed.
How different it was this past January when I arranged a booking just for myself. The response was welcoming and it was happily told me that I would have the same room—two large rooms plus bath and microwave for fixing food if I wanted it rather than the dining hall. Even better was a full kitchen in a nearby building where a number of volunteers cooked and I also thought it was more like home.
I had to smile when I checked in and went to the 2nd floor. I glanced at the door where the prior winter Kea and Mary Grace stayed, when just a knock would bring one of them to aid me in the caring for Elisabeth. Another 15 feet or so I entered my familiar quarters to unpack my belongings. As I looked into the bedroom I was struck by seeing a single bed rather than the double one that we had occupied. Couldn’t help but chuckle thinking, “Perhaps they felt that I would be less lonely being in a single bed or maybe they knew the old country song, “Sleeping single in a double bed.” Don’t bother looking it up as it is very depressing as are many country songs even though they are about life. I mentioned it in jest to the office and they explained it was needed for a short time but not anymore. I said it is all the same to me and I could fit easily into a single. However my old double appeared later that afternoon.
By now I can hear, “When is he going to end this saga of winter ’16 at the AIM center?” Just two ‘vignettes.’ One afternoon in ’15 I took Elisabeth in the wheelchair on our trek around the compound. The route can be as a figure eight with two shorter loops intersecting the larger one. It was pleasantly warm with a light breeze that, on occasion, blew enough to rustle the leaves on the ground as well as the tree branches. As I rounded the curve on the north end of the road and headed toward the inn, a tail wind pushed us along and made the dry pin oak leaves that covered the concrete road to roll down the grade, making a very audible scraping sound. I, walking at a good pace shuffling my feet through the leaves, added to the sound. If you have never seen one, they are not flat and large as oak leaves. The nearest I can describe them is that when I would bring Elisabeth mussels from the tide pool and she would then boil them, when taken out, their shape could be likened somewhat to the leaf—a bit fat in the middle, tapering down to slightly pointed ends, like a small crescent roll. It was a picture perfect day, and as we strolled, I looked through the trees and started to hum the tune and then sing,
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands have made
I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout
The universe displayed.”
It was for me a moving moment and I had no “ouch” response from Elisabeth about my singing. At that point we were on a rather steep slope and so I put one hand on Elisabeth’s shoulder to be certain that she did not lean forward and push herself out of the chair. Normally on that stretch I would turn the chair and walk backwards down to flat area and on to ‘home’.
In Jan ‘16 there was a very similar afternoon in every aspect save one—the beauty of the skies, the wind pushing the rustling leaves. The pin oaks were even more visible, for the undergrowth had been cleaned out during the past fall together with scrub trees, briar patches and small bushes giving a newness to that area. I did as the previous year. I sang a portion of the hymn and the only missing element in that day was that Elisabeth was not along in her chair to enjoy the stroll once again and that made it not the same.Thank you all for the many cards, letters, prayers and well-wishes for the season, the year . . .
Merry Christmas to y’all, God bless and that’s it from the Cove.
If any of you have ordered Elisabeth’s books or CDs with the 40% off retail price offer and have not received them yet, please call me at 978-525-3653 and I’ll get them off to you Pronto! I will be away for some days leaving on the 20th. Anything received through the end of December will be at the 40% discount will be sent out as soon as possible after the Dec. 15th and will not reach you by Christmas.