Old Gertrude Rides Again

I was tying BL’s shoes the other morning, getting her ready for the DART bus that would take her to Easter Seals Day Program, and I suddenly remembered that there was one Christmas when I put red ribbons and jingle bells on her shoes and the Powers That Be removed them rather promptly.

And that made me suddenly homesick for Old Gertrude.  This season was her favorite of all.  She believed in Santa Claus with a childlike faith that put him right up there next to God.  Sometimes Oldest Daughter would tease her and say, “Gertie, Santa Claus isn’t coming this year.  He got hit by a car and he DIED!”  That would really set her off.  She knew that Christina was teasing, but she honestly felt that she was guilty of a terrible sin, probably blasphemy in the nth degree, and she would hush her and scold her and raise quite a fuss.  She loved for me to put red velvet ribbons on her shoes with jingle bells that jingled merrily with every step she took.  She would sit in her chair and shake her feet and smile conspiratorially to herself while the bells rang on and on.  After BL’s center reacted so negatively to her bells, I wonder what Gertrude’s Day Program must have thought.  I’m so glad they didn’t make her take them off.  They gave her so much joy.!  Here is an old post from 2006 that couldn’t be truer if I had written it just today — except for the dates which are glaringly off.  I had forgotten that I had written it, so I enjoyed it as much as any of you will.  As the years pass, there are things I almost forget — and I want to remember.  The memories make our lives so rich, our hearts so full.  I’ve been so blessed.  My heart gives grateful praise.

For almost twenty Christmases,
Old Gertrude
shared our carols, our Shrimp Chowder, the ageless Christmas story and the gifts.
Oh, how she loved the gifts!
How fervently she believed in Santa Claus!
Last year, she went to Heaven in October and was buried in early November.
At Stockley Center.
In the cemetery for the indigent and Mentally Challenged.  (That’s the new word — Gertrude hated the old one.)
Then Daddy died and nothing was right about last Christmas.  I hardly had time to think about Old Gertrude and how much she loved the season.  Besides, there wasn’t much to enjoy last year.  Just a new, wrenching grief and so many things for my hands to do that my heart didn’t catch up for several months.
Today, getting ready for our family celebration tonight, the gifts are wrapped, the tree is twinkling, the village is resplendent in it beauty, and, out of the blue, Youngest Daughter says,  “You know, I MISS Gertrude so much today.”
Suddenly, the ache in my heart gets wider.

She would have parked herself in the chair beside the tree every night since it went up and would have sang the carols and eaten chocolate, (getting it all over herself!)  She would have rubbed her hands together in gleeful anticipation of the packages under the tree, and would have listened as Certain Man read the Christmas story and Christmas prayers were offered. She would have rooted through her Christmas stocking and made a royal mess of things and would have been delighted with stuff that I could have imagined that she wouldn’t have looked at twice, and dismissed the things I chose so carefully with a sniff and an impatient wave of her hand.
I miss her songs and I miss her childlike faith and enthusiasm.  I miss her unconditional love and her uncompromising loyalty.  She didn’t care if the house was a mess, she loved the simplest things to eat, she made me laugh and sometimes she frustrated me no end. She never wanted to hurry, and she didn’t care if everyone in the house was telling her to move, she would stand where she was and say with dignity and force “Don’t rush me.  You’ll cause me to fall!”

The picture above was taken at a small group caroling time several years ago.  Old Gertrude never could read, but she loved to pretend that she could.  I snapped this priceless photo and it couldn’t be more definitive of what Old Gertrude was like.

Oh, Gertie.  What a gift you were to our family!
I wish that you were sitting by our fire tonight.

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