Jim Bishop: In one year and out the other, once more
How do you react to receiving an unexpected gift, particularly one that abruptly changes well-laid plans? In our case, it involved having a block of time suddenly bestowed on us originally intended to be spent quite differently.
Early morning Dec. 26, wife Anna and I dragged ourselves out of bed, finished packing and were about to load the car for the 300-mile trip to my childhood home in eastern Pennsylvania.
The weather forecast for the day after Christmas sounded ominous: heavy snow for the Eastern Seaboard and New England, not favorable for our Souderton, Pa., destination just north of Philadelphia, where up to 12″ of frozen precip was expected.
I had a gut feeling that going anyway may not be wise. We made an executive decision not to go, and reluctantly made some phone calls to extended family.
It looked and felt like snow in the central Valley all day. A few sputtering spurts and snow squalls, but no accumulation, was all we got.
I called brother Eric Monday morning, already preparing to feel sheepish if indeed the wintry blast for that area failed to materialize. He assured me that they were indeed “pretty much snowed in.”
“I’m looking out the window at WORK!” Eric moaned, referring to the shoveling that lay ahead.
Thus, for the first in my 65-year existence, I didn’t spend Christmas, or days on either side of Dec. 25, at my childhood home. And while disappointed not to be there to participate in the lively activities that are second nature to a Bishop gathering, guess what – I survived!
Sunday, and then Monday, played themselves out differently for sure. Since we were already up, we slowly imbibed extra cups of robust coffee, went to church and enjoyed a service of Christmas music and scripture readings and saw a number of persons who were home for the holidays. Originally, I was scheduled to be head usher and both of us were to be involved in the service, so we were able to go and simply take in the proceedings.
That afternoon, we enjoyed delectable leftovers from our Christmas Eve family gathering, joined half of Harrisonburg at the Regal Cinema and took in a movie – a decent remake of “True Grit” –and ended up at a local restaurant for appetizers and split a yummy dessert . . . a refreshing, rejuvenating day well spent.
The entire week between Christmas and New Years Day proved to be one of the most relaxing, yet productive weeks I’ve had in a long, long time – so much so that returning to work Monday, Jan. 3, knowing that this is the last semester at my workplace, was extremely difficult. I’ll be writing more news stories and doing other tasks for the last time and will face squarely each of these signposts along the thoroughfare as they arise.
The hardest event of late was my decision to pull the plug on the colorful Wurlitzer jukebox after nearly 11 years doing the weekly radio show on WEMC-FM public radio. The ‘swan song’ edition of the ’50s music program aired Friday, Jan. 7.
I ended the final show with these words to loyal listeners: “This weekly guided tour down those cobwebbed corridors of time has been dedicated to your love affair with the oldies and . . . lovers never say goodbye,” then signed off with The Flamingos’ 1959 melancholy song , “Lovers Never Say Goodbye,” which begins, “Please wait for me, for I shall return . . .”
The reality of coming down the home stretch of our respective journeys in the education arena really struck home – perhaps because we’re now officially into 2011 – as Anna and I motored down Interstate 81 after a delightful New Years weekend attending a Mast family gathering in the Lancaster, Pa., area. Anna will retire at about the same time in June after 29 years of teaching first grade and kindergarten in the Rockingham County public school system.
Both of us desire these next six months to be good ones, not backing off and just going with the flow, as tempting as that might be.
I intend to heed the words of novelist and playwright James M. Barrie (1860-1937) warning against letting the golden hours slip by, noting that “some of them are golden only because we let them slip by.”
While there are some practical steps I can take to address these anxious moments, including seeking counsel from others who recently have or are undergoing a similar transition, one cannot slow or stop the hands of time itself.
For me, taking it one day at a time comes down to adhering to this Irish proverb that hangs on a plaque in our kitchen: “Sing as if no one’s listening, dance as if no one’s watching and live each day as if it were your last.”
So let it be stated, so let it be done.
Jim Bishop is public information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He can be contacted at email@example.com.