My earliest memory of a New Year’s Eve was very traumatic. I had to be maybe 4 years old. No, seriously….I was. What I remember was my dad saying, “This is the last cigarette I’m gonna smoke all year.” (It was the late ‘50s. Everybody smoked.) He wasn’t saying that he planned to quit smoking. (That didn’t happen until I was in college.)
He went on to add that this was the last snack I would eat, that I had taken my final bath and that this was the last time I would go to bed all year.
Looking back, I realize that he was making a “dad joke.”
What my four year old brain heard was: This is the end of life as we know it!
I think I’ve been scarred for life.
I tried the same thing with my kids but I don’t believe it had the same impact.
Years have come and years have gone since that New Year’s Eve of 1958. Some have been exciting and filled with changes, some have been hard and filled with challenges, and still others were pretty much the “same old, same old.”
I’ve got to say that, as years go, 2015 was a pretty good one.
I have mixed feelings about saying that because I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. I’m not bragging or comparing. I know many people who have had a rough time this past year and my heart truly goes out to them. I know others for whom this past year has been a time of amazing joy and blessing.
But for me, when I look back on 2015, I feel an overwhelming flood of gratitude.
It actually started on Christmas 2014 when Kate gave her mother this picture as a gift…
It took us both a few minutes to realize what this was telling us. We’re gonna have a third grandkid!
To provide some emotional context, you should know that late in 2014 we were facing the very real possibility that Kathie’s mother, Louise, was not going to live to see 2015. Plans were made. Funeral expenses were paid. Power of attorney was assigned. So the knowledge that a new little boy was going to be joining us was very moving indeed.
However, Louise apparently had other plans. We are now planning a 2015 family Christmas gathering at the New England Club where she lives. It’s kind of amazing.
On my side of the family I admit that I was pretty fearful for what 2015 might hold for my parents. It’s true that my dad continues to struggle more and more with a lack of balance and a general loss of strength and energy.
Dad played Corn Hole with us in May, but I doubt he would attempt that now. He works hard at keeping a positive attitude but isn’t always successful. Mom has recovered nicely from her second hip replacement and they continue to manage pretty well on their own with some occasional help from my sisters and me.
Our family gets together several times a year to celebrate birthdays. February is for Mom and Liz. I still have trouble getting my brain around the fact that my first baby girl is now a 30 something. I’m so proud of the woman she has become. She has always been tender-hearted and sensitive to the needs of others. As she has matured, it seems to me she has added to that a drive to excel and to build upon her natural leadership qualities.
I believe this combination of compassion and drive has served her well in her career. I’m so excited to see what 2016 may hold for her.
Kathie and I had been saving up to take Liz, Kate, Timm and the grandkids to Walt Disney World in November of this year. Well, when we found out that Kate was “with child” and the baby was going to be born during the summer we decided to move that up to March. We figured it would be easier to do Disney when you’re 6 months pregnant than to try to take along a 6 month old baby.
I don’t really see how that trip could have been much better. Whenever you take a trip like that with a multi-generational group of fairly strong-willed, opinionated people, there will be some tense moments. They were just that: moments. The weather was perfect and it was still sort of the off-season so most of the lines were manageable. Just the other day Asher, my 6 year old grandson, said, “Hey, Pop. Do you remember when we went to Disney? That was awesome! Can we do it again?”
June found us taking a trip to Abilene, Texas. The son of a couple of our dearest friends was getting married to a young lady from there. It was a wonderful time with a group of some of our best friends in the world.
The next big event was Oliver’s birth. Kate and Timm told us they were having a boy, but his name was kept secret until he actually made his appearance. I think this was partly because they really didn’t know for sure what it was going to be. Kate went to the hospital on July 3rd and the boy was born on the 4th. Looks like he’ll have fireworks on his birthday every year!
We went for our first visit at the hospital that afternoon. This is when she told me his name: Oliver Lloyd Combs. I gotta admit, it caught me by surprise. It’s a little hard to describe the emotions I felt at that moment, but I think I’ll always feel them.
In November of 2014 I told our Senior Pastor that I had been considering retirement. It wasn’t definite yet, but I thought it would only be fair to let him know that I was considering the possibility that 2015 would be my last year of full-time ministry. I told him I would have a definite decision by spring. I won’t go into all the reasons here. Suffice it to say that in the following months it became even more clear that this was the right move. So, together we planned for the end of August to be my final Sunday on the staff of WOCC. The church planned a wonderful reception for Kathie and me. I can’t honestly say that I’ve done no second guessing about this decision, but I still feel confident that it was a wise move.
In October Kathie and I took a road trip. We called it our “Hall of Fame Road Trip.”
Our first stop was my nephew’s wedding just outside Baltimore.
Then we took in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY…
…then Niagara Falls…
…and then on to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
The trip was lots of fun and we were able to visit some places we had never been before.
Now, here it is Christmas time again.
I’m guessing Kate’s gift to us will be something different this year.
It’s very likely that 2016 will hold some real challenges for us and our family. Of course, we thought that about 2015 and, even though it did indeed have some challenges, I feel nothing but gratitude.
I also thank God for His promised presence and peace as 2016 comes rushing at us all.
I pray that you’ll also experience that presence and peace.