A Good Year Meets a Gentle End

A Good Year Meets a Gentle End December 30, 2023


The end of last year was so brutal, and the end of this one is so gentle.

Christmas began with my thinking that I’d never drive my car again. Then the polar vortex set in, so dangerously cold for 48 hours that I couldn’t even sleep upstairs in my own house, so we dragged the mattress downstairs and slept in the living room. Then, out of money and ideas, I accepted an offer from someone I thought was a friend to fix the car for me with catastrophic results, and then the most bizarre three-month slow-motion panic attack of a winter, in the null lukewarm mud of a climate catastrophe. And then my stalker died. And then Jimmy and his boy rescued me and my faith in humanity all at once. And now I am better.

In some ways I am better than I’ve ever been.

This year I have my transportation back, though it’s still in the middle of an endless chain of repairs like the Ship of Theseus. The cold is coming in closer to the usual Appalachian way; it’s going to snow in January. I will drive my car out to Raccoon Creek and have a winter hike to see the icicles.

Adrienne is doing better than she ever has. She still wants me to hold off on telling stories about her now that she’s older, but she sometimes gives me permission to chat about what we did together on Twitter so you might catch a glimpse of her there. This lonely week after Christmas we’ve been playing the old Myst series of video games, my favorite. We squabble over who gets to move the mouse, just like I did with my siblings growing up.

I was raised the oldest of five devout Irish Catholic children, the daughter of the second of seven devout Irish Catholic children. My beloved grandfather and grandmother had thirty-five living grandchildren and an unknown number of tragic miscarriages along the way. My grandmother was still a mother with a young child at home when her oldest started having children. I only knew about the sort of family that constantly has little ones underfoot, where a mother earns the crown of “Grandmother” seamlessly without ever having to live without a baby nearby again. I don’t know how to be the kind of person that I am: a person who nearly died at the birth of her first child and hasn’t been able to have another. A person who will have to learn to live without a baby.

It turns out it’s not all bad.

It turns out that, when a baby turns into an adolescent, a mother turns into something else: not a fellow adult, but a kind of super-adult who has ceded some control and will continue to cede more and more. The baby turns into a junior adult who is still a child but who will continue to get more and more like a real adult as she goes along. The super-adult gets free time to go for hikes and take herself on field trips where she used to have to constantly supervise. The junior adult, so far, is bemused at how  backward and old-fashioned the super-adult is but still keeps me in the loop. I keep learning where I need to maintain control and where it’s time to let it go, and apologizing where I fail.  We have a good time together. We learn from each other. I like being a super-adult. I somehow raised a wonderful young woman.

I look back at some of the situations I’ve been in with my family of origin, and how we can’t have a relationship now, and I wonder if much of the trouble wasn’t realizing that children grow up.

I look at my relationship with Mother Church, and ask the same question.

I started the year reeling from severe religious trauma and not even certain I believed in God. I’ve been through a lot and I’m not nearly healed yet. But I have discovered that I really do believe in Christ. I think I like Christ better than ever. And I did get to go to Mass on Christmas, after being stuck without it for all of Advent, and it felt so right I am going to try to go again this weekend. I will never trust the Church as I used to. I will never forget what the Church did to me. If God is truly just, He’ll have a lot to settle with the Church. But I am willing to be here, for now. I am willing to be an adult child of the Catholic Church.

I have discovered I like living in Steubenville, now that I’ve given up trying to be the Catholic I thought I was supposed to be.

Jimmy’s boy and I are already plotting how to dig up some more of the yard and plant an even better garden come spring.

I guess it’s been a very good year.

I like that it’s come to a gentle end.

Thank you for going through it with me, and we’ll see where we go from here.




Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.



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