There is a small path that leads around a pair of duck ponds. In the autumn, Miss Betty enjoys taking a slow lap around them three times a week. I would push her wheelchair; often a bit too fast. We would talk about her long life and throw a few pieces of bread out to the baby ducks along the bank. Today, all of the ducks gathered; as if a memo had been published. We came back inside to get some water to drink when “the topic” came up.
It’s is the most popular topic among residents of a nursing home. I had anticipated the topic, and tried to collect a few, thoughtful replies for when it came up. Somehow, I was still unprepared. I am sometimes caught off-guard, and yet at other times, I walk right into it.
We were taking short sips of too cold water from paper cones. I noticed that Miss Betty was grabbing the counter beside the wheelchair and pulling herself along, moving toward the door. This is when the “topic” came up.
“Where are you trying to go?”
“Home,” came the quick reply.
It was an automated response; requiring no thought. It was a reflex; showing me just how prevalent the topic is. The hope of going home casts its immense shadow onto every other enterprise.
Miss Betty gave me a simple admission today; that even during the holiday season, when the weather was idillic, when our physical and social needs are (mostly) met, something calls us from the other side. Our reply is this; “I want to go home.”
“Christmas is . . .” began Miss Betty. “a pause and a go, a warm and a cold, a happy and a melancholy, a place and no place, a time and timeless. Even still, there is a thread of commonality about the way we celebrate the birth of Christ – family and the call to come home.”