As readers of this blog know, this has been a tough year for our family.
In late March, my father-in-law Martin Kelly died after a years long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Two nights before the funeral, while going to pick me up the Greyhound bus station in downtown Springfield, Dunreith was hit in a head on collision by a car driving the wrong way on a one-way street.
In early July, the day after our nation celebrated the anniversary of its independence, my stepmother Diane Lowenstein died.
And in the earlier part of 2010, Mom had such extensive heart problems that she eventually had to have a pacemaker installed. Two weeks ago, she also had a total right hip replacement.
This of course is to say nothing of the difficulties associated with a grueling junior year and the vicissitudes of the college application process for our son, Aidan Kelly Lowenstein.
Yet, as we approach the day in which people the world over celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, I also am filled with gratitude.
In some ways, the gratitude is leavened by the mere fact of having weathered the storms and started to sail in calmer waters. In other ways, the adversity we experienced has only added to the appreciation of the many gifts we receive.
Above all, for me the hardships of the past nearly 12 months have led me to be more present in my life and to be aware of life’s richness, wherever we are at that moment.
For yesterday, today and tomorrow, we are in Western Massachusetts, staying with my mother-in-law as Dunreith’s family observes the first Christmas without Marty being there in person.
Aidan and his cousin Dylan re-enacted a childhood family tradition by cutting down a Christmas tree for their Babci, the Polish word for grandmother. In this case, they actually cut down a pair of trees, Shaun helped bind them together and then decorate the trees with ornaments, lights and candy canes.
Last night, we gathered with Dunreith’s family for a tasty Italian meal before going with her cousin Megan and her partner Kristin for a couple of drinks and some dessert at Adolfo’s in downtown Springfield. Aidan spent the night with his cousins, sleeping over at Shaun’s house, while on the way home last night we drove around the MacDuffie campus where Dunreith attended eighth through twelfth grade.
This morning we walked with Dunreith’s Aunt Ginna and now are heading out to buy presents.
In each of these experiences, we experienced many gifts-of family, of health, of memory, of connection, of love.
For all these, and so many more, I am grateful.