It is December, just before Christmas in a cottage in Southern Vermont. Clark Burton is alone, save his dog a Siberian Husky named Aloof…Loof for short. Just a week before Christmas, and the decorations are limited to a Red Christmas Candle in the window. Clark had enjoyed a full life, now comfortably ensconced in his 76 year old body. He had moved up to the family’s ‘vacation’ home three years ago at the passing of his wife, Christina, (Tina). The weather was particularly cold with a generous covering of white. The nights had been particularly quiet, but amazingly bright. A full moon on the white snow produced a light that resembled daylight. Clark has always enjoyed the bright nights in the mountains. Among his favored sounds, that of the wind brushing the tall trees with playful persistence.

Never sure whether it was his gender or his personality, Clark had always enjoyed time alone. He treasured his wife, his children, his grandchildren and friends, but he also needed time away from people and stuff. Most of the family accepted it, although theyreally did not understand it. Why do you want to be away from everyone? Any attempt to explain it; end up offending the questioner, which was absolutely the opposite of intent. “Some people draw their life energy from others, other people draw that energy from inside…the well needs time to refill on occasion….” No explanation ever really gets beyond leaving one with the feeling that Clark does not want to be with him or her. It is one of the awkward nesses of social interaction where you can not see beyond yourself. It is always about ‘me.’ For Clark, it was always about drawing himself together. He withdrew from life’s intensity to regroup and refresh. It was his rhythm his entire life. People who knew him well understood.

With that personality trait, some people thought it was ‘fair’ that his wife of fifty years had pre deceased him. It was not. He longed for her everyday, although her presence was evident in every aspect of his life, from what he saw in the cottage to the warmth of her memories. He had been told that he would be fine one year after she had passed. It was not any easier. It continued to bear a striking resemblance to a tooth ache. It would flare up, but the dull pain was always present. This dull ache however, was not limited To his mouth. It radiated from his heart, and just like his blood, it flowed cold through his entire being. Clark chuckled to himself, that winter was actually welcome, because his sad heart found a brother in the cold of winter. They found comfort in each other’s void.

Clark had taken Loof for a walk and was making his way back to the cottage at the stillest of hours, the glooming hour. He could hear tires crunching the snow on the narrow country road in front of the cottage. Who would be coming to visit this hour less than a week before Christmas? His children, the four of them, would all be at their various homes getting ready and organized for the holidays. His grandchildren would also all be living their respective lives. It struck him that in the age of facebook, texting and cell phones, that everyone was more reachable, but also more disconnected from each other. He smiles recalling treasured hugs, some recent, but most just warm, distant memories. He was drawn back into the moment by the sound of squeaking brakes, bringing a car, just out of sight, to a stop at his cottage.

Picking up the pace to greet his quest, Clark moved through the snow. Loof barked not recognizing the car or the passenger. As Clark cleared the trees, he could see the car, a Mini Cooper with Rhode Island plates, was his granddaughter Rebecca’s. As she opened the door, a smile warmed the cold. She had long auburn hair with emerald green eyes and a smile that lit the dark. Tall and athletic, she was a beautiful young woman who had collected the best genes in family pool. Bec as everyone called her was glad to see Clark, Pops. Clark never liked the name, but it was welcome. “Come on in and we can warm up.” Bec it is great to see you, but shouldn’t you be at home helping everyone with Christmas?”

The conversation zigged and zagged. It was a great catching up time, but clearly she wanted to talk about something. Then Clark asked about Paul, Bec long time boy friend. She started to cry…”We have broken up.” “We do not want the same things…” It was a conversation that Clark had had more than fifty years ago. It was a conversation that he had listened to from his children. It was the conversation that happens when two people try to weave the yarns of their lives into a single blanket. His face, warm with love for his granddaughter, disguised the smile of his heart. This was a threshold moment for her. This was that moment when two people decide to step from being individuals to becoming one, in life and in love. Clark knew that if lives were to truly woven together, this forging had to happen. He also thought about the number of times that the conversation produced a break up before a forging. “Why are so many of life’s lessons painful.”

As Clark listened, he prepared a light dinner for the two of them. The conversation went on for a couple of hours. He listened as Bec convinced herself that they needed to be together. He had perfected his listening skills over the years. A few well placed questions would always be better perceived that opinions. About 9 o’clock, Bec got up and started putting her coat on. “Pops, you are right. I need to go see Paul right now and work this out. You are the best. I love you.” “But I did not do anything,” said Clark.

“Yes you did Pops; you listened and help me find my path. You carried me for a moment. The moment I needed most. Thank you.” Do you want me to come with you Bec?” She smiled, “No, but why don’t you come home with me to Christmas dinner…its has been three years since you came home for Christmas…”

He thought for a moment and initially said no….How would I get back? I would be in the way? I enjoy being alone….But all of his objections died in the warm embrace of his granddaughter’s eyes. It was time for him to step over his threshold and go back to the family for the holidays. It was time. It is what Tina would want. It was as it was supposed to be.

He grabbed a few things and the next thing he knew; he was in the car on the way to Rhode Island to celebrate a homecoming, his own.