Time to welcome a New Year

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By Rick Howell

    My son, Ryan, remembers last year when we hung out together in Roanoke to bring in the New Year. I was looking for an alternative to cooking, so we decided to call out for pizza.

    The person on the other end of the line said, Sure, we can deliver a pizza tonight, but we’re very busy. You’ll have to wait a while. That’s fine, I said. Roughly, how long? Three hours, was the answer.
    Three hours? Anyone with a 13-year-old knows that they seldom go a stretch that long without eating something. And we were hungry then.
    But we decided to wait it out, and we thought it probably wouldn’t really be that long. It wasn’t. The food was there in about an hour and a half. But having the patience to wait made some great pizza taste even better.
    This fall, Ryan remarked one day that he couldn’t believe so much time had passed since New Year’s Eve when we thought we’d have to wait three hours for pizza. It struck me then that while teenagers certainly don’t perceive the passage of time the way we aging baby-boomers do, even he was aware of how things seem to fly by.
    That year we waited to start as we also waited for pizza is all but gone now. 2011 is almost upon us. Ryan will turn 15 in the new year, and talks about things like learning to drive and wondering what his first car will be. Can this really be the same kid who - not long ago - I fed in his high chair?
    Yes, it can. Yes, it is. On the opposite end of the spectrum from my young son is my aging father, now 78 and in the latter stages of Parkinson’s Disease.
    When I was young, my father always seemed the picture of strength and good health. He was stout and strong, and usually followed eight hours of work at Rubatex with another two or three hours of work around our house. It’s hard to remember him even having a cold. He was tough.
    As it turned out, he never spent a day in a hospital until he was 68 years old and had a bout with Lyme Disease. He retired in 1994 and had ten very good years at his home place in Huddleston before time and fate betrayed his good fortune.
    He got the Parkinson’s diagnosis in early 2004, and had a mini-stroke two years later. All this put him where he is today: the Oakwood Manor Nursing Home in Bedford. As my mother, sister and I behold him in his condition today, we wonder: Can this really be the same person we once knew so differently?
    Yes, it can. Yes, it is. Under the circumstances, we only have one option: Acceptance, and the hope of God’s grace and mercy, as tough as it is for us. Of course, we have no idea how tough it is for him.
    My family and I continue to be grateful for the high quality care and attention he receives at Oakwood Manor. At Christmas, my mother, who is practically a member of the staff there, wanted to make sure that I use this forum to acknowledge our gratitude. No problem.
    Soon, the New Year is here, and what happens to any of us is, well, it’s a mystery, isn’t it? My father, my son, my family - all of us and all of you - can only be patient and see what the currents of time bring. Hopefully, something good and positive will emerge for us all.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com