November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving: Seeing With Our Heart

In her younger years, Agnes Rebecca would have been a good model for a porcelain doll. Albeit, I believed, one that looked a bit dour. As she grew old, bright copper hued wisps of softly curling hair framed her aged face. Her graying eyebrows were penciled in, coal black. A rigid line of red lipstick was drawn across lips that seemed to seldom bestow a smile. Prim circles of rouge rode high on her cheeks. Severing fact from fiction she wasn't afraid to speak her own mind—to the extent some people avoided her.

I was one of them.

Agnes was my great-aunt by marriage, and at family gatherings I cut her a wide berth. I was never quite certain how she felt about me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. It took challenging circumstances in my own life to soften my heart toward her. Our second daughter was born ten weeks premature. We weren’t able to bring her home from the hospital for nearly two and a half months. Released just prior to her first Thanksgiving, she weighed barely four pounds. I was a nervous wreck. Since our baby was still too weak to suck, we had to feed her with a gavage tube. At night I sat and kept watch, making certain she was still breathing. Since she wasn't able to issue much of a cry, in the daytime I hovered over her, wringing my hands and worrying I’d miss if she needed something. 

Sequestered in the far corner of a small family gathering on Thanksgiving Day and, I’m sure, looking as desperate as I felt, I was sought out by none other than Agnes Rebecca. As she reached for my baby, I felt a twinge of concern. It was soon replaced by an unexpected rush of grateful admiration. Her face radiating love, my great-aunt handled our tiny daughter with gentle confidence. She comforted me with advice gleaned from her years of experience with babies. 

All my life how had I missed the fact that she’d worked as a pediatric nurse?

Every Thanksgiving thereafter, until her death, I watched with awe the sweet exchanges between my aunt and daughter. For me Thanksgiving Day now brings remembrances filled with gratitude and love for Agnes Rebecca. 

To this day I wish I would have noticed much sooner than I did what a treasure she was. 

Copyright 2012, Lori Nawyn

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